Record warm spell to hit US over Christmas holiday

The trends reflect the broader increase in global temperatures from the climate crisis

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 21 December 2021 18:41
Weather Forecast: December 21, 2021

Those dreaming of a white Christmas in the US may have to keep dreaming this year. A combination of weather patterns, and ever-present global heating, means that many parts of America will be hit with record temperatures over the holidays.

Cities throughout the Southeast and south-central US may experience record heat, according to AccuWeather, including Dallas, Houston and New Orleans.

A high-pressure system in the Southeast and a spinning storm system over the Rockies two of the culprits for the unseasonably warm forecasts.

"Due to the position of these two systems, very warm air originating from Mexico will be pulled northward into the south-central US, leading to the record-breaking weather," AccuWeather meteorologist Isaac Longley said.

The hot weather could see these cities experience temperatures up to 30°F warmer than normal and feel more like October than December. This is in keeping with the climate crisis trend of exceptionally high temperatures in recent years across the region.

In 2015, New Orleans, Houston, and Atlanta all had their hottest Christmas ever. In 2016, Dallas, Nashville, and Oklahoma had theirs.

Some will still likely get a snowy or snowy-ish Christmas, including those in higher or mountainous terrain on the West Coast from Washington down to Southern California. But even historically cold places like Minneapolis and Green Bay, Wisconsin, are facing a lower chance than normal of end-of-year snow.

The snow-free forecast is a fitting end to a year that saw many winter destinations fail to get normal amounts of snow. Denver got the latest start to its snow season ever this year, and Colorado ski resorts delayed opening their doors because it was too hot even to make fake snow. Salt Lake City, Utah, was snowless through November for only the second time since 1976.

By 2040, if current climate trends hold and widespread action isn’t taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Mountain West could be entirely snowless for years at a time.

This would impact everything from forest ecosystems, to wildfires, to drinking water access.

“The folks who lose their water first are the lowest-income communities in the state and are often overwhelmingly communities of color,” Camille Pannu, founding director of the Water Justice Clinic at UC Davis, told High Country News last week. “Climate change is a major factor and perhaps one of the most existential factors right now when it comes to water access.”

This summer was just as hot, with July 2021 as the warmest month ever recorded.

“In this case, first place is the worst place to be,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said at the time. “July is typically the world’s warmest month of the year, but July 2021 outdid itself as the hottest July and month ever recorded. This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe.”

So far, legislators have been unable to muster the needed 50 Senate votes to pass the Build Back Better social spending package, which includes unprecedented climate spending, with the White House unable to convince conservative Democrat Senator Joe Manchin to come on board.

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