White Christmas?

Kevin Higgins
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Play the percentages for a mild winter in central/northeast regions

This is the time of year when dreams of a white Christmas are dancing carelessly through the minds of many.

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Yes, for many, the spirit of the season, at least for those living in the Northern Hemisphere, is enriched by waking up Christmas morning to a bright white layer of snow covering the ground — it is certainly an element that adds to the magic of the season.

And even though there’s no guarantee, according to Herb Thoms, warning preparedness meterologist with Environment Canada, the chances are good Santa and his reindeer will be leaving tracks on rooftops this Christmas.

According to Mr. Thoms, for the Gander area, there’s an 80 per cent chance there will be a white Christmas this year, with a 31 per cent possibility of it being a perfect Christmas.

That’s a greater percentage than in St. John’s, where it will be around the 60 per cent mark for a white Christmas and 24 per cent for a perfect Christmas. Meanwhile, in Stephenville, the numbers are almost identical with a white Christmas coming in at 70 per cent and a perfect Christmas just behind at 64 per cent.

However, if you want to play the high percentages of experiencing a white Christmas in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to Environment Canada’s predictions, Goose Bay is the place to be — 95 per cent for a white Christmas, and 53 per cent for a perfect Christmas.

This Christmas weather prediction, however, is somewhat different than the seasonal outlook for December, January and February in the central/northeast regions, where Mr. Thoms said trends indicate above normal temperatures, and near normal amounts of precipitation for the trio of months.

“We’re likely going to see more in the amount of rainfall than in the amount of snowfall because of the above normal temperatures,” said Mr. Thoms.

But not necessarily.

“(The kind of) precipitation is so dependent on the track of independent storm systems,” said Mr. Thoms, “and winter storms can develop rather quickly, so it’s hard to predict long-term what will happen. We could be looking one day at the (weather) map and there’s nothing and then within 24-36 hours they’re pounding Newfoundland.”

As for the temperature, Mr. Thoms said indicators are much more reliable because of several factors, including sea temperature and the North Atlantic oscillation.

“Right now, we have a warm pocket of water just south of the island… one or two degrees above normal,” he said, adding this may not seem like a lot, but it is when it comes to sea temperature.

“Of more of an influence is the North Atlantic oscillation, which comes in a positive and negative phase. When it’s negative, we are warmer than normal, and indications for the next three weeks are it being negative, so temperatures should be above normal.”

He also added that it takes quite awhile for the North Atlantic oscillation to turn from negative to positive, so indications are for above normal temperatures for most of the winter.

“The only other thing I can say is be prepared, because we live in Newfoundland (and Labrador) and, like I said, things can change rapidly.”


Organizations: Environment Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Gander, Stephenville Goose Bay

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