Weather forecast – are we in for a white Christmas?

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The end of November and beginning of December brought more winter than autumn weather in Poland. Round-the-clock frosts, snowfall, intense especially on the coast and in the mountains, allowed the ski season to begin in many resorts. As a result, can we count on a white Christmas this year?

Weather forecast for the holidays

The numerical models include a forecast for 10-14 days ahead, so at the time of the article’s publication it will be a few days short of being applicable to the holiday season. The verifiability of such models is also low. We can talk about a confident forecast 2-3 days before Christmas. However, it is known that the beginning of December brought snowfall, intense especially in the south of the country and in Warmia and Mazury. Thanks to the persistent frosts, the snow cover still lingers in many places today.

Unfortunately, the ECMWF and GFS medium-term models predict a thaw with the beginning of the second decade of December due to the activation of the western circulation. At the same time, a long-term model forecasting the deviation of average temperature and precipitation totals from the multi-year norm shows that December will stay within the norm in terms of temperature and above the norm in terms of precipitation totals. Unfortunately, the multi-year norm for average daily temperatures in December ranges from 3ᵒC in the northwestern extremities, through -1.5ᵒC on the eastern wall, to -3ᵒC in the foothills. Above-normal precipitation totals at positive temperatures can result in faster snowpack dissolution and leaching.

Does this mean that there is no chance of a white Christmas? Not necessarily. With a westerly circulation, the weather can be very dynamic, with precipitation occurring at night at sub-zero temperatures. In places there are several tens of centimeters of snow, and more than two meters in the mountains. This gives hope that it will not melt despite positive temperatures and rainfall. In the mountains, snow is likely to stay until April or May. It is also possible that in the foothill areas and in northwestern Poland the white fluff will stay for the holidays. As you can see, it is still too early to make assumptions that provide certainty.

When was the last white Christmas?

Do white holidays in Poland happen often? But is it pointless to wait for them? Remembering last year, with the onslaught of winter in early December and truly spring-like temperatures over Christmas and the turn of the year, it’s hard to hope for a reversal, especially in the context of climate change. And how was it in previous years? How often have we observed snow on Christmas?

The last relatively white Christmas was not long ago, in 2021. All over the country, several centimeters of snow were then piled up between December 24-26. Most in the mountains and Zulawy. They were also quite cold days. After a warm Christmas Eve came a frost that lasted practically until the end of the year. To reminisce about a truly white Christmas you have to go all the way back to 2010. In almost all of Poland there was a snow cover of 10-30 cm. The exceptions were the Subcarpathian and Lublin regions. Previously, a snow cover of 5 to 40 centimeters lay across the country on holidays in 2001 and 2002. The year 2009 also saw snow for Christmas across the country, but already only 5 to 10 cm thick.

Locally, not very thick snow cover was observed in Masuria, Suwalszczyzna and foothill areas on Christmas Eve 2018. On the first and second days of Christmas, some snow was added east of Warsaw. In 2011 and 2012, trace amounts of snow were observed in the east and northeast of Poland on Christmas Eve, but the later part of Christmas brought thaw and melt there. The years 2003-2008, 2013-2017 and 2022 were holidays with snow only in the higher parts of the mountains. 2013 turned out to be a record warm year, when the temperature in the second half of December in the south of the country was 13-15ᵒC. In 2020, there was no snow on Christmas even on the mountain tops.

When will it be known whether Christmas will be white or green?

In the past twenty-odd years, only 5 have had heavy snowfall across the country. As history shows, we should not expect long snowy holidays and winters, but rather periods when some heavy snowfall occurs. Rather short-lived. Only residents of the foothills and northeastern regions of Poland have a better chance of snow in late December. Nothing has been decided yet this year. It is a good idea to follow weather forecasts and observe the amount of snow accumulation. Preliminary forecasts covering the holiday period will appear in just a few days. We can talk about the more likely ones 2-3 days before Christmas Eve. Snow is expected to linger in the mountains and foothills, and that’s where lovers of white holidays should go.

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