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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Climate-Watch, December 2000

National Climatic Data Center - (last update Jan 08, 2001)

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White Christmas Proability Map

Climatological Probabilities of a White Christmas
(Click on the image for a larger view)
* These are the long term average probabilities. Actual areal predicted snowfall conditions for Christmas will be based on your local weather forecasts issued close to Christmas day.

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Will We Have a White Christmas?

It's an age-old question that occurs to almost everyone this time of year. The above map shows the climatological probabilities of a white Christmas. The map is just one of 737 maps now available on NCDC's new Climatic Atlas. See NCDC's "In the Spotlight" for ordering this product. The map above from the Climate Atlas shows the statistical probability (in percent) that a snow depth of at least 1 inch will be observed on December 25th. Highest probabilities are in northern and mountainous areas of the country. The probability was computed using snow depth observations for December 25th for the full period of record for a given station (rather than just the 1961-1990 climatological normals period).

NCDC also has a separate report which contains maps and tables showing the percent probabilities for a snow depth of at least 1 inch on Christmas morning, as well as the probabilities for a depth of at least 5 inches and 10 inches. The "First Order" (U.S. major airport stations) Summary of Day Dataset for the period of 1961-1990 was used to compute these statistics. Only stations with at least 25 years of data were used and the '61-'90 period was chosen to coincide with the standard period for computing climatological normals. The complete report is available at Will We Have A White Christmas ?

The actual conditions this year may vary widely from these probabilities. The snow on the ground or snowfall on Christmas day will be based on the actual weather pattern during that time. These probabilities are useful as a guide only to show where snow on the ground is more likely.

Weather Log - December 1-10th, 2000

Various media sources reported that flooding is deadly in parts of Indonesia. In Manado - a city in the country's Northern Sulawesi province, floods have killed 5 individuals and inundated dozens of homes. According to the afternoon Suara Pembaruan Daily, the flooding is the worst the province has experienced since the 1940's. The height of the water in Manado city reportedly reached 1-3 metres, 30,000 locals were forced to flee their homes, and the transportation line between Manado and Gorontalo was totally cut off. In addition, a landslide hit Lungowan village in the district of Minahasa, and the state Antara New Agency reported that 2 rivers, the Sario and Tondano, broke their banks. On Sumatra Island, an estimated 170 people have reportedly died. See the media report for more information.

Parts of northeast Georgia, upstate South Carolina, the mountains and coastal plain of North Carolina, and eastern Virginia received snowfall on December 3rd. The western areas were affected by an upper level low which dropped 1 to 7 inches of snow in some locations. Eastern NC and VA were hit by a coastal storm which dropped up to 15 inches of snow on the coastal plain. See the NWS snowfall reports for the event and a NWS Snowfall Map- Western Carolina's - Dec 2/3, 2000 is also available.

Last year, it was a cold winter in Mongolia, as temperatures were 4 degrees below the long term average for the December 1999-February 2000 period. Early snows this season have killed almost 16,000 head of livestock and thousands of families are migrating to save herds from another devastating winter, according to the State Emergency Commission. More than three million head of livestock starved and froze to death last winter -- the coldest in 30 years -- following a harsh summer drought which parched crops and pasture. This year, snow has already blanketed more than 90 percent of the country, starving herds weakened by another severe summer drought which cut the hay crop normally used for winter feed, the commission said. See the media report for more information. See the NOAA Daily Snow/Ice Cover Movie Loop for November 2000 .

Weather Log - December 11-20th, 2000

On December11th, 2000, 8 to 14 inches of snow fell across much of northern Illinois followed by wind gusts of 30 to 45 mph during the evening...creating dangerous drifting snow and wind chills of 30 to 40 below zero. Further south across parts of Ford and Iroquois counties in Illinois and Newton...Jasper and Benton counties in northwest Indiana...a mixture of freezing rain...sleet and snow caused power outages and hazardous travel. At the Midway airport in Chicago, 14.5 inches of snow fell on December 11th which was a 24 hour period record snowfall for Midway. The previous record was 12.5 inches set in December 1960, snowfall records date back to 1928 for Midway Airport. Chicago-O'Hare is the official reporting station, and had 9.5 inches of was the 8th greatest calendar day snowfall in December for O'Hare, official snowfall records for Chicago date back to 1885.

Damage from Tuscaloosa Tornado, December 16th, 2000
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Deadly tornadoes over the weekend of the 16th-17th affected parts of Mississippi and Alabama. Preliminary reports indicate that 12 people died in the event, 11 of those in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. According to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, the tornadoes hit five Alabama counties: St. Clair and Etowah in east-central part of the state, Limestone County in the north, Geneva County in the south and Tuscaloosa in the west.
NCDC produced an infrared satellite animated gif loop showing the fatal tornadic squall lines (red area in northern Alabama and Mississippi on December 16th, 2000 between 1315z to 1915z. The Tuscaloosa F4 tornado was on the ground for a total of 18 miles, all within Tuscaloosa county. The tornado path was estimated to be 750 yards wide at it's maximum intensity. The morning after the tornadoes, temperatures dropped into the 20's in Tuscaloosa, with wind chills to near 0F.

Weather Log - December 21-31th, 2000

Record Cold Christmas Morning

Bitterly cold arctic air spilled southward over the Midwest on Christmas Eve setting the stage for a record cold Christmas morning in many locations. Among the new daily minimum temperature records set were: Waterloo, IA at -29 degrees F; St. Cloud, MN at -26 degrees F; Rockford, IL at -22 degrees F; and Green Bay, WI at -22 degrees F. Further south in Texas, new daily precipitation records for Christmas day were set at DFW Airport with 1.94 inches; and Austin Bergstrom with 1.10 inches. Further north and west conditions were even worse with heavy freezing rain developing over parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and northeastern Texas, while an upper level storm moved through New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle dumping record amounts of snow.

Arkansas - Oklahoma Icestorm

A devastating winter storm developed over southeastern parts of Oklahoma, western and southern Arkansas and adjacent parts of northeast Teaxas and extreme northwestern Louisiana. Ice and glaze buildup began late Christmas Eve and continued in some areas until Wednesday, December 27. Tremendous ice accumulations occurred along and 50 miles either side of the I-40 corridor through Arkansas and Oklahoma. Widespread power outages were reported, mainly south of an Okemah to Grove, Oklahoma line. Conditions were particularly bad in Pittsburg (OK), Le Flore (OK), and Sebastian (AR) Counties where total ice accumulation ranged from 1 to 2 inches, and most of Arkansas received at least an inch of ice accumulation. At the height of the storm, 300,000 people in Arkansas were left without power, 120,000 in Oklahoma, 106,000 in Texas, and about 50,000 in Louisiana. In addition to power loss, telephone and water outages were reported. Air travel became a nightmare after hundreds of flights were cancelled at Dallas on Tuesday and the Little Rock airport was shut down for three days. States of emergency were declared in 26 Arkansas counties, and Hot Springs and other towns lost use of their water treatment plants after the power failed. As of Thursday (December 28) 275,000 customers in Arkansas (and 425,000 overall) were still without electric power. As a result of the storm, President Clinton declared Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas federal disaster areas. This was the second significant ice storm to affect Arkansas this month with about 300,000 homes losing power on December 12-13. According to the National Weather Service, the two ice storms of December, 2000 have been the most widespread and damaging in Arkansas state history dating back to 1819.

Texas Panhandle Snowstorm

An upper level storm system acted in conjunction with the surface storm system to its east to produce localized but extremely heavy snowfall from eastern New Mexico across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles from Monday into Wednesday (December 25-27). Mineral Hills, NM received 22 inches of snow and all major highways running north and west from Amarillo, TX were closed due to the heavy snowfall. At Amarillo, the storm total was 20.5 inches with a maximum depth of 15 inches on the ground.

Northeastern U.S. Snowstorm

A powerful Noreaster hit portions of the central and northern Atlantic coast region at the end of 2000. The storm brought heavy snows to portions of eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England. The storm dumped over 2 feet of snow in parts of interior New Jersey with many spots getting a foot of snow. This was the heaviest snowstorm in the Central Park, New York Metro area since January 1996 when 20.2 inches fell. See the media report for more information.

Record Snowfalls and Near Record Cold for December

Last month, the U.S. experienced the second coldest November on record since 1895. NCDC's monthly November 2000 report is available here. December 2000 (as of December 29) is also quite cold. Precipitation and drought products augment our standard monthly products and give a more timely snapshot of the current climate.

The Winter of 2000-2001 continued severe with several cities in the Midwest reporting record December snowfall totals. As of December 24, Grand Rapids, MI had reported 54.1 inches, setting both a new December and new monthly snowfall record. Similarly, as of December 29, Waterloo, IA had reported 30.9 inches; Dubuque, IA had reported 35.5 inches; and Moline, IL had received 29.1 inches; all breaking their all-time monthly snowfall records for not only December, but also for any month. New December snowfall records were set at several locations in Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Texas. In addition, as of December 27, Syracuse, NY reported 76.1 inches of snowfall for the September - December season so far. This was the second snowiest September - December period (but the record may well be broken before December ends). In most of these locations, snow was still falling adding to the December records.

As of the last week in December, numerous cities were expecting the final December temperature averages to be near their coldest Decembers on record. South Bend, IN expected expected December 2000 to be either the coldest or second coldest on record. Charlotte, NC and Fort Wayne, IN expected December 2000 to be the second coldest on record and Little Rock, AR expected it to be the second or third coldest on record.

See the NWS statements on December cold and snow.

Is is colder elsewhere? Verkhoyansk in Siberia, has the reputation of being one of the coldest spots on earth. The station also has one of the largest differences between winter and summer temperatures. The average high/low temperatures for December are -52/-56 F while in July the averages are 66/47 F. The station is tied with another Siberian station for the record for the lowest Asian minimum temperature of -90 F set on 7 February 1892. See the Global Measured Extremes of Temperature and Precipitation WWW page.

Australia is in the midst of an early summer heatwave. Temperatures recently have been in excess of 40 C (104 F) in parts of southeastern Australia. Fire danger in that region is high; fire bans have been in place and barbecues using wood or charcoal are outlawed. Only barbecues fueled by gas can still be lighted. See media report for more information. In some areas of Victoria state, residents were being warned to prepare for wild fires to threaten their homes.

Other global highlights for the month can be found at NOAA/OGP Special Global Summary for December 2000.

Note: Hazard event satellite images available courtesy of NOAA OSEI Satellite Images WWW site.

Top of Page Selected U.S. City and State Extremes

The Selected U.S. City and State Extremes provides a list of new records that were set across the U.S. during December 2000.

Top of Page Additional Resources

For further information, contact:

Tom Ross
NOAA/National Climatic Data Center
151 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801-5001
fax: 828-271-4328
Specific requests for climatic data should be addressed to:

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