Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas in 2010?

A white Christmas in our part of North Carolina is very rare. In any given year, the chance to see a white Christmas is less than 5%. It has happened in the past though. Just ask folks that were around southeastern North Carolina in 1989. A snow storm produced up to 20" of snow near the southeast coast from December 22 through December 24, 1989. About 4" fell around Fayetteville, but only a trace of snow was reported in the Triangle. While the Triangle did not see a white Christmas that year, most of that snow was still on the ground Christmas morning from Fayetteville to the coast. Looking back at the records for the Raleigh-Durham Airport, the only white Christmas on record was in 1966 when there was 1 inch of snow on the ground. Generally, a white Christmas is defined as having at least one inch of snow on the ground Christmas Day. Snow has only fallen at RDU on Christmas Day once since records have been kept. That was in 1947 when only 0.4" of snow was reported. Records have been kept at RDU since 1944.

As we approach Christmas Day 2010, the prospects of a white Christmas in North Carolina are higher than most years. Honestly though, the forecast for Christmas Day is still very uncertain.

Low pressure will track across the southeast Christmas Eve and possibly track up the east coast Christmas Day or night. The exact track of that low pressure will determine what type of precipitation we see. At this point, all scenarios are on the table. One model takes the low on a more northerly track keeping most of central and eastern North Carolina with a chilly rain Christmas Day with light snow possible as the precipitation comes to an end Christmas evening. Other models suggest a more potent storm system with a more southerly track. This would lead to mainly snow across most of the state except at the coast where mainly rain would fall. However, under that scenario the precipitation could change to snow at the coast before ending.

Those are the two extremes we are watching this morning. The actual weather conditions Christmas Day will likely end up somewhere between those two extremes. Forecasting winter weather in our part of North Carolina is very tricky. Making a definite call on the Christmas forecast at this point would be pretty much like throwing darts at a dartboard. It is just too early to make a call on who sees rain, who sees snow, and how much.

We'll gain certainty with the forecast over the next couple of days. Computer models by Thursday should have a much better handle on this potential storm. While many folks may be dreaming of a white Christmas, this is just a heads up that if the more southerly low track occurs, there will be major travel headaches up and down the east coast.

We'll keep you posted with Weather on the Ones updates through the week on News 14 Carolina. Stay tuned...

Lee Ringer
News 14 Carolina Meteorologist

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