White Christmas

We missed it again, but this time not by much. And for some folks it actually happened, though it rarely does.

And, as usual, I was asked if it would happen, and my answer, as always, is “probably not.”

White Christmas.

Yes, we actually did have snow falling in the mid-valley on Christmas Day, even at the lowest elevations. And the hills received quite a lot. But the “official” total was zero.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the parent organization of the National Weather Service, gives observers some latitude when recording snow. NOAA says,

“If you are not available to watch snow accumulation at all times of the day and night, use your best estimate, based on a measurement of snowfall at the scheduled time of observation along with knowledge of what took place during the past 24 hours. If you are not present to witness the greatest snow accumulation, input may be obtained from other people who were near the station during the snow event….you want to report the greatest accumulation since the last observation.”

Yet even the most dedicated observers I know shy away from watching snow accumulate “at all times of the day and night.” For the most part, the snow at the standard measurement time is what gets recorded.

At the local “official” station, the Hyslop Experiment Station on Highway 20 near Independence Highway, observations are made each day at 8 a.m. This year, though snow may have fallen at Hyslop, there was none on the ground at 8 a.m. on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Thus, no White Christmas this year.

So, “if snow falls and there is no one to observe it, does it get counted?” Not if it melts before the observer arrives!

And how rare is a White Christmas? Below is the list of all occurrences where snow was reported on either December 24 or 25 in the mid-valley since observations began in 1889. From 1889 to 1952, the station was at OSU. Since 1952 it has been at Hyslop.

1916: 1 inch fell on the 24th, and another half inch on the 25th. Temperatures warmed up in the daytime but were in the high 20s at night.

1948: 1.5 inches fell on Christmas Eve. The daytime high was only 35, and the nighttime low 20.

1954: 1 inch fell on Christmas Day. Temperatures were mild (41 for a daytime high, 31 for the low) and the snow melted quickly.

1983: The best one of all. 2 inches fell on Christmas Eve, another 1.5 on Christmas Day. Temperatures were very cold (mid 20s by day, low teens at night) so the snow lingered for awhile.

Four times in 118 years. That’s a pretty rare event, without a doubt.

Then again, it’s been 24 years since a White Christmas occurred, so…maybe next year!

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