Slim chance for white Christmas in area

The chances of Union County seeing a white Christmas this year are pretty slim.

The National Weather Service forecast office in Paducah says there's a chance of snow flurries and sprinkles on Christmas Day. High temperatures are expected to be in the upper 30s Friday.

Every year in December, weather forecasters are asked the age-old question: 

Will we have a white Christmas this year?

An analysis of Illinois’ history shows the chances are slim, according to state climatologist Jim Angel at the Illinois State Water Survey in Urbana-Champaign.

Based on averages of past reports of snow on the ground on Christmas mornings in 2001 to 2008, Illinoisans living in the northern part of the state have the highest chance at 30 to 50 percent. 

Site averages indicate that Rockford and Chicago have only a 38 percent chance this year. 

For the remainder of the state at various cities, the chance of a white Christmas is only about 14 percent.

The National Weather Service forecast office in Paducah reports that the historical frequency of a white Christmas in the region which includes Union County is about 15 percent.

The last White Christmas in the region was in 2004. This was the result of a record snowfall on Dec. 22.

The 2004 storm dropped 14.2 inches of snow on the Paducah area. The storm set a 24-hour snowfall record for Paducah.

The snow was followed by bitter cold temperatures, including a record low reading of 8 degrees below zero on Christmas Day.

Many parts of Southern Illinois also experienced a White Christmas in 2002.

A snowstorm affected much of Southern Illinois on Christmas Eve of 2002, bringing up to 8 inches.

The chance of a snowy Christmas in Illinois has decreased in the past decade compared with the 1971 to 2000 time period. 

Angel attributed this to the abundance of snow in the 1970s, and the mild winters in the early 21st century.

The Christmas Day with the most snow on the ground in recorded history was 1951, according to long-term records.

Aurora had 31 inches piled up that day from 12 days of nearly nonstop snow and temperatures below freezing.

Nearby sites reported significant amounts, including Midway Airport with 17 inches, Wheaton with 19 inches, Peotone with 21 inches, and Waukegan with 21 inches.

Other parts of Northern Illinois had impressive amounts as well, including Morrison and Dixon both with 25 inches, and Paw Paw with 27 inches.

The National Weather Service predicts a normal amount of precipitation for December and an increased chance of colder than normal temperatures, which may boost the chance for snow. 

Still, the dream of awakening to glistening treetops on Dec. 25 is unlikely to come true.

“To have a guaranteed white Christmas in the Midwest, you have to travel to Hibbing or International Falls in Minnesota, or Marquette or Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan,” Angel said.

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