The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 16, 2012

Christmas forecast: Experts say temperatures will be the key to holiday snow

JOHNSTOWN — For those who remember Christmas morning when the gift wrap was torn from the American Flyer, which immediately was ridden down a bank of fresh snow, there are even odds similar circumstances could occur this year, especially for the higher elevations.

Looking at projections more than a week out, meteorologists in State College see precipitation in the forecast around Dec. 25, but the big question will be the temperature.

If the thermometer hovers in the mid-30s, most of the Cambria-Somerset region can expect rain. But if it’s cooler, at least some of the white stuff should blanket the area, said Barry Lambert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in State College.

“It looks like there is a storm approaching from the Southwest that may impact us on Christmas Day,” Lambert said.

When that storm will hit and what the temperature will be is anybody’s guess this far in advance, he said.

It has been a number of years since there was a significant Christmas Day snow accumulation.

Some point back to 2002, when there was more than an inch in some areas.

While it wasn’t enough to take a sled on, Lambert said records show that in 2010 the Johnstown area had a light snow on the ground.

Weather authorities say the United States’ definition of a white Christmas is an accumulation of at least one inch or more, said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Some weather watchers go so far as to require that there be an inch or more of snow on the ground by 7 a.m., while in most areas of the world, a white Christmas means white stuff, even if only a dusting.

But despite a strong desire by many for a nostalgic white Christmas, the weather patterns across the country, including this region, are complicated by an unpredictable El Nino, according to long-term predictions made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md.

While cities like Minneapolis, Green Bay, Wis., Buffalo, N.Y. and Burlington, Vt., have the best chances of snow on Christmas, according to AccuWeather meteorologists, the Somerset-Cambria region at least has a chance of snow.

A NOAA map shows the probability of a white Christmas in our region at 40 percent to 50 percent, with the best chances in the Laurel Highlands.

Even the Farmer’s Almanac is hedging its bets. The almanac calls for unsettled weather from today through Tuesday, a prediction that matches Lambert’s at the National Weather Service.

Cooler air is moving in and rain will usher in the new week. Lambert says there is the possibility of a significant snowstorm for northern Pennsylvania.

Like the experts with computer modeling, the almanac won’t be nailed down on Christmas.

From December 24 to 27,  it says only, “Some snow Christmas.”

A similar prediction was made by the late George Acker, a retired Martinsburg area farmer who died in July at age 89.

For the three-day span covering Christmas, Acker, who provided yearlong predictions for The Tribune-Democrat since 2006, said there would be snow.

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