El Niño Stealing Our White Christmas? Snow Eludes Even Buffalo, A City Breaking Records

This time last year, Buffalo was covered in snow. The city is almost a shoe-in for the white stuff, especially by Christmas, but it’s on a steady course to shatter its past record for the latest snowfall ever.

The record for latest snowfall is held by December 3, 1899, and by Saturday, Buffalo had broken it, Buffalo News reported. The place hasn’t seen anything measurable, and if the National Weather Service’s predictions are on point, none will fall until mid-December.

And that might not even happen in a city that usually gets dumped with lake-effect storms; Buffalo sits on the edge of Lake Erie.

“That’s the way it looks. We’re just going have more above-average temperatures,” said meteorologist Jim Mitchell. “We’re going to dry out pretty good. If you don’t have any moisture, it doesn’t matter how cold it is.”

You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone in Buffalo who’s too upset about that prediction. Last year at this time, 20 inches were dumped on the city, which created another record — the second-snowiest autumn in the past century. The city’s average by early December is 10 inches.

Blame El Nino for no snow in the city of Buffalo
Buffalo on November 20, 2014. Photo By John Normile / Getty Images

Resident Ken Waterman remembered last winter as brutal and isn’t sweating the money (and life) saving warm temps, he told the Associated Press.

“My heat bill is next to nothing so far this year. Getting around is easy, there’s no accidents to speak of.”

His son, Tyler, is grateful that the white stuff hasn’t led to any snow days at school yet. Last year, they had so much the district had to make it up by cutting time off his summer vacation. And the city is saving money as well — its snowplows are idle, its mountain of salt intact.

In other words, everyone is pretty pleased that the autumn has stretched long into December, with November’s average temperature of 46.2 degrees making it the seventh warmest in the city on record. It was also the driest, with only 1.40 inches of rain; the city usually gets about four.

The decidedly fall weather will continue next week in Buffalo, with no snow in sight: the forecast calls for a low of 38 degrees.

So what is going on here? Why is a usually snowy city still basking in warm sunlight a mere three weeks from Christmas? According to NBC News, Buffalo isn’t the only place where temperatures have been very mild — most of us have seen and should continue to see warm weather through the middle of the month as a jet stream that carries all the cold air stays far north in Canada.


Blame El Niño. For now, the weather pattern — which warms Pacific waters — will keep things dry and bare, but it is expected to weaken later in the season. That’s when the cold, and snow, is finally expected to arrive.

For those of us on White Christmas watch, the Weather Channel did a thorough analysis of how past El Niños have affected the holiday in an attempt to predict whether or not snow will fall by the time Santa arrives.

This year’s El Niño is the strongest on record and affects weather all over the world — from heavy rain to extreme drought, warm temps and frigid cold. But snowy cities like Minneapolis or Burlington, Vermont, for example, aren’t guaranteed snow on Christmas in a normal year, with its chances at 77 and 72 percent respectively. For the rest of the country, based on 30-year averages, the shot is about 50/50.

While El Niño isn’t the only thing affecting the weather (there’s also the North Atlantic Oscillation to consider, which locks cold air in place regardless of other weather patterns), in the past, it caused widespread warmth and sadly, little snow.

But there’s this ray of hope: El Niño seems to cause pretty wet Decembers, so if a cold air mass moves in over an area at the right time, snow will fall. Back in Buffalo, residents hope that snow will arrive just in time for the holiday — and ship back out shortly after.

At least, that’s the scenario Buffalo resident Robert Ross is hoping for.

“And two days later that would be the end of it. That would be perfect.”

[Image via SunCity/Shutterstock]