You can almost hear Bing Crosby warming up his singing pipes now.
A white Christmas?
It’s no sure thing, but less than a week away, it’s more than just an old crooner’s idle dream for Western New York this holiday season.
National Weather Service forecasters are calling for a significant snowfall early this weekend, with cold enough temperatures to preserve a white blanket for Christmas Day, next Tuesday.
“It’s still early, but I think the chances are pretty good of a white Christmas,” National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Kelly said Tuesday. “If I had to throw out a number, I’d probably say 75 percent.”
The region’s last white Christmas occurred two years ago, when 4 inches of snow blanketed the ground at 7 that morning at the Weather Service office in Cheektowaga.
Last year, little kids waking up early and looking out the window saw nothing but discolored grass and maybe some mud, during the region’s least snowy pre-Christmas season in 140 years.
That should change this year.
The latest National Weather Service forecast calls for snow likely Friday, Friday night and into Saturday morning, with the chance of further snow listed between 30 percent and 40 percent through Monday. During that time period, temperatures are expected to range mostly between 24 and 32 degrees.
The culprit – or the hero, depending on your point of view – is a low-pressure system barreling in from the Midwest.
But forecasters don’t know whether that system might dump 1 or 10 inches, or anywhere in between, on Western New York.
“Any slight variation in the track, where that low-pressure system goes, can significantly impact final snowfall amounts,” Kelly explained.
Statistically, having a white Christmas here – in a city considered almost synonymous with snow – is far from the slam-dunk most people would expect.
Over the past 30 years, starting in 1982, the National Weather Service has recorded eight years with no snow on the ground at 7 a.m. that day, four other years with just a trace (under 1 inch) and 18 years with at least an inch.
So that’s a 60 percent chance of having at least an inch.
There’s also mixed evidence on whether there’s any significant trend toward less snowy Christmases in the last few years.
In the past 30 years, eight Dec. 25ths have had no snow on the ground, and four of them occurred in the first 10-year period, from 1982 to 1991. Two each have occurred in the last two 10-year periods.
No winter has rivaled last year’s almost snowless pre-Christmas, when only 3.0 inches of snow were recorded by that date. That was the single lowest total since records were kept starting in 1871.
This late fall has been almost as devoid of snow.
Through Monday, the National Weather Service has measured only 0.3 inches of snow in December and another 2.4 inches in November. That 2.7-inch total ranks well below the long-term average of 21.5, or about one-eighth the normal amount.
So the region’s snow total is 18.8 inches below normal so far this year.
And if this weekend’s expected snow somehow misses us completely, that would set the low record.
But Buffalonians know not to harbor any illusions about a mild late fall turning into a tame winter.
“It’s starting off being mild, but things always change,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of cold air up there.”
Some longtime winter survivors here look out at the completely open Lake Erie, with its 44-degree mid-December reading, and fear that it’s ripe for lake-effect trouble in the coming months.
But that’s almost always true in mid-December.
“When you’re looking at the lake freezing over, that usually doesn’t happen until late January or early February,” Kelly said. “And there are some years where it doesn’t freeze at all.
“This is Buffalo,” he added. “There always is potential trouble in January in Buffalo.”