Bah Humbug: Brown Christmas Likely For Wyoming

Wyoming meteorologist Don Day isn't ready to concede that a brown Christmas is a certainty for Wyoming, as weather patterns can often change. But the two week forecast doesn't look good for those who want a snowy December 25.

AR
Andrew Rossi

December 12, 20236 min read

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In much of Wyoming, most people want a white Christmas while also expecting a brown one. Seeing snow on Christmas Day isn’t exactly hoping for a Christmas miracle, but most Wyomingites would tell hopeful visitors to keep dreaming of, rather than expecting, that Norman Rockwell blanket of snow come Dec. 25.

Even the iconic 1942 Irving Berlin song “White Christmas” is about longing for a snowy Christmas rather than getting one. The oft-forgotten first verse discusses the beauty of a warm, sunny Beverly Hills before describing the nostalgia of snowfall “up north.”

Wyoming is certainly “up north” of southern California, but Berlin could have set “White Christmas” in the Cowboy State without losing much of the longing (but would have to lose the swaying orange and palm trees).

The latest six to 10-day forecast from the National Weather Service expects the week leading into Christmas to be warmer and drier for most of the United States, including Wyoming. It’s welcome news to many, but even the most hardened cynics will begrudgingly concede that it’d be nice to see some of the white stuff on Christmas Day.

Is a white Christmas in Wyoming’s immediate future, or has the (mostly) pleasantly warm weather of December absconded with any chance of it?

What Is A White Christmas?

Anyone hoping for a picturesque Christmas Day in Wyoming should seek out the expertise of Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day. However, he said it’s important to clarify the terminology before giving his professional opinion.

“There are two ways to describe a white Christmas,” he said, “and the reason I'm so particular about this is that people will get you into arguments about it.”

The debate over the definition of “white Christmas” isn’t enough to stain the snow-covered ground red with blood, but it is an important distinction for many. Does there need to be a thorough covering of snow on the ground on Christmas Day for it to be a “white Christmas,” or is it enough to get some day-of flurries to create the desired atmosphere?

Some people take exception with the second definition, a classic “Odd Couple” scenario. It’s difficult to appreciate the purity of a Tony Randall snowfall if it clashes with the dead browns of a Jack Klugman Christmas Day.

Like The Ones I Used To Know?

Day said anyone in Wyoming who takes stock in the definition of a “white Christmas” with active snowfall will historically find coal in that stocking.

“Some people say a white Christmas is when it snows on Christmas,” Day said. “That doesn’t happen very often, like maybe one out of four or five Christmases.”

That leaves the first definition of a snow-on-the-ground Christmas Day. In that respect, Day thinks it’s too early for a definitive answer for this year, but it won’t be a do-not-open-until-Christmas morning prediction.

“Will there be snow on the ground for Christmas? From what I'm seeing, I am not ready to make that call yet,” he said. “We’re two weeks away, and I will be more comfortable in about seven days making that.”

And the National Weather Service forecast?

“I am not buying that forecast at the moment,” Day said. “It’s still too early. There’s been a change in the models since that forecast was issued.”

Pacific Presents

It’s easy to forget that Wyoming’s weather is part of a worldwide system. Right now, there’s activity in the Pacific Ocean that could have something to say about the chances of a White Christmas.

Many meteorologists are following strong jet stream winds over the Pacific. Day said the signs suggest that the El Niño weather anticipated for months could be on its way.

“We're certainly seeing some things happening out in the Pacific and over the Western United States that will be changing things over the next week or two,” he said. “For Wyoming, it's going to be slow to evolve. But we'll start to see some of the El Nino pattern that hasn't shown up yet.”

The Pacific Ocean is in an El Niño state, where the ocean's surface temperatures are warmer along the equator. However, current weather patterns indicate that this is a rarer Modoki El Niño, where warmer water surface temperatures typically situated along the equator are more centered toward the central and western portions of the Pacific Ocean.

The Modoki El Niño is throwing a wrench in the long-range forecasts released throughout 2023 since many of the expected El Niño weather patterns have yet to manifest. The intense jet stream activity suggests there’s a change in the air.

Day knows the current jet stream activity over the Pacific will impact Wyoming. The question is when those impacts will arrive, and he suspects that could lead to some Christmas surprises.

“Ultimately later, not quickly, but later, that does mean the weather changes in the western side of the United States,” he said. “I'm expecting that to be happening probably around or just before Christmas, and between Christmas and New Year's, the weather pattern will get stormier.”

Day won’t go as far as to speculate that the strong jet stream winds today could lead to a Wyoming white Christmas in two weeks. But there will be changes in the state’s weather within the timeframe.

“It’s a precursor to what's coming,” he said. “But it's nothing that, from a Wyoming standpoint, is going to be something that we feel right away. But it's a signal.”

Christmas Colors

Wyoming isn’t known for white Christmases. Brown will most likely be the predominant color covering the landscapes, so nobody should stand outside expectantly hoping to catch Christmas snowflakes on their tongues.

However, Wyomingites should expect a change this Christmas. And based on the latest models, Day changed his description of Wyoming’s chances of a white Christmas could be increasing.

“The models that ran (Tuesday) morning show snow in parts of Wyoming on Christmas Eve,” he said. “So, it’s a moving target.”

“Moving target” is more optimistic than “one out of five,” but there’s still no certainty. Much like a rambunctious child nodding off in an armchair hoping to see a fat, bearded man in red sneaking into a home, the best way to anticipate a white Christmas in Wyoming is to go about one’s business and be pleasantly surprised (and appropriately cautious) in the event of encountering the unlikely sight.

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be … Wyomingite.

Andrew Rossi can be reached at: ARossi@CowboyStateDaily.com

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

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