ITHACA, N.Y. – For those of you dreaming of a white Christmas in Ithaca, keep dreaming.
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Average temperatures so far this month at the Cornell Game Farm road weather station have been 41.4 degrees, an impressive 12.7 degrees  above normal.
If Ithaca can keep up the pace, it will smash the old record for highest December average, which was 36.2 degrees in December 2006, followed by 35.6 degrees in December 1982. Records for Cornell/Ithaca go back to 1893.
It’s worth noting that there was a mild El Niño event in December 2006, and like now, there was a strong El Niño underway in December 1982.
El Niño is a warming of the waters of the Eastern and Central Pacific that, through air-sea interactions, can impact the weather all over the world.
Strong El Niño events tend to create persistent jet stream troughs in the Western United States, giving them colder, stormier conditions, and persistent ridges in the Eastern U.S., leading to warmer and sometimes drier than normal conditions.

But, El Niño is just one factor in the overall weather pattern. Point is, it’s piping hot for an Ithaca December.

We’re also running well below normal for precipitation, 0.95″ (2.4 cm) of liquid equivalent vs. the normal 2.40″ (6.1 cm) by mid-December, and not even a trace of snowfall this month.

So far for the season, we have received only 0.4″ (1 cm) of snow, which fell on November 23rd. Normally we have about 12.6″ (32 cm) of snow by this point. Some parts of the Northeast (though not Ithaca) are experiencing moderate drought conditions.

According to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC), the chances of above normal temperatures over the next couple of weeks is greater than 90%, and those sizzling conditions are likely to continue through New Year’s Day.

In fact, some of the most reliable weather models, the American GFS and the European ECMWF model, are calling for temperatures of over 60º F (15.6º C) on Christmas Day, nearly 30º F above normal. Santa Claus is going to be roasting in his suit.

 On the one hand, it looks like snow is increasingly unlikely for the jolly holiday. But after last year’s Arctic winter, dear readers, is it worth complaining over?
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Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at