Nov 29, 2022 - News

Philadelphia has slim chances of a white Christmas

Commuters look to beat rush hour after several inches of snow fell on Philadelphia.

Will Philadelphia look like a winter wonderland this year? Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Keep dreaming.

State of play: Philadelphia hasn't seen snow on Christmas Day since 2009, according to Lauren Casey, a meteorologist at Climate Central, which tracks emerging weather patterns.

  • The city has a 10% to 25% chance of seeing at least an inch of snowfall this Christmas, Casey, who's Philly-based, told Axios.

The big picture: Global warming has affected snowfall throughout the U.S. over the last five decades, according to Climate Central. The group's analysis of data from 1970 to 2019 found most places have experienced decreases in fall and spring snowfall.

  • Winter snowfall was more of a "mixed" bag over that period, with decreases more prevalent in southern regions.
  • The Northeast is experiencing more winter precipitation in the form of rain rather than snow, a trend that's expected to continue.

The intrigue: Philly has actually seen an uptick in snowfall during the same period, Casey told Axios.

Yes, but: That doesn't mean our city isn't affected by global warming. Casey said Philly's average winter temperature has warmed nearly 5 degrees since 1970.

  • "We're seeing more extremes — more extreme snowfalls, more extreme rainfalls," Casey said. "Warmer air has the ability to hold more moisture. ... It's making everything less predictable, more variable and more extreme."

Threat level: Experts say climate change may be making snowstorms more potent.

  • Ocean temperatures rising and more moisture in the atmosphere causes an uptick in heavy precipitation events (rain and snow), Axios' Andrew Freedman explains. This may boost storm intensification rates.
  • Many of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast's biggest snowstorms on record have occurred since 2000.

By the numbers: Philly recorded just under 13 inches of snow last winter, half the level of the year prior.

  • A spokesperson for the Streets Department told Axios that cost $4.6 million on plowing and overtime, and nearly 22,000 tons of snow salt.
  • The city has allocated $5.1 million for snow removal services this year.

What's ahead: Philly usually has its first "measurable" snowfall — meaning at least an inch — by mid-December, Casey said.

  • But we might have to wait a bit longer. Last season, the city didn't get an inch until January.

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