There are very few things I will ever guarantee in weather, but predicting this December’s temperatures compared to last year’s is one prediction I am willing to stake my meteorological reputation upon. The fact is it will be colder than last year and by a pretty wide margin. Now, of course anything is possible and some massive shift in the sun might overheat us this coming month, but short of that it’s time to prepare for a different month than the one we had a year ago.

If you forgot about last December let me remind you it was in the 50s Christmas Eve and in the 60s Christmas Day. I won’t soon forget being at some friend’s house for Christmas dinner enjoying hors d’oeuvres outside in 2015!

The reason this is going to be a much colder December compared to the last one is mostly due to the lack of El Nino. When we experience a year with a strong El Nino – warmer than average water temperatures off the coast of Peru – temperatures in much of North America are warmer than average for the winter, especially in December. The map below shows how much of the area was warmer than a typical December in 2015.

December 2015 was a warm month across much of the globe

How much colder than 2015?
While there is conflicting information about just how cold it will be the final month of 2016, all the models agree there will be at least a few days of colder than average weather and overall the month looks to be within a degree or so of average. It might end up a bit colder than normal or a bit warmer, but it’s not going to be a super warm month like last year.

This version of the CFS-V2 model predicts temperatures to be seasonably cold in Maine this December

This version of the CFS-V2 model predicts temperatures to be seasonably cold in Maine this December


What about the snow?

Besides cold, you are probably more interested in snow. This is a very difficult thing to forecast in any year. One hit or one miss of a major coastal storm can quickly raise snowfall averages. Alternatively, a couple of missed storms or a rain-snow line that moves inland can leave the ground bare through Christmas.

Even different versions of the same model don’t agree on where the heaviest snow will fall. The image below shows just how divergent the various ensemble members of the CFS V2 are with regard to snowfall through December. However, all of the models do seem to agree on significant snow for ski areas. Hopefully, this will verify after last year’s poor start to the ski season, and it would be welcome by many.

While there is conflicting information on where the heaviest snow may fall in December, many versions agree ski areas should do quite well with snow

While there is conflicting information on where the heaviest snow may fall in December, many versions agree ski areas should do quite well with snow

The other piece of the puzzle is the fact we are still in a drought and while we could see significant snow even in a drought year, it’s less likely.

There is a still a dry signal for parts of the northeast in December.

There is a still a dry signal for parts of the Northeast in December.

My bottom line is you should expect a colder December, more typical of New England, this year. Additionally, the threat of snow will be higher than last year, with the likelihood of near average snowfall or perhaps above average, especially across ski country.

I will continue to update my thoughts on the coming winter here and on Twitter @growingwisdom


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