Dreams of a white Christmas looking unlikely in much of America

It’s already been a record-breaking warm winter in parts of the country

National park visitors asked to take photos to track climate change

It looks likely to be a balmy festive season across much of the United States with a notable absence of snow.

It’s already been a record-breaking warm winter in parts of the country which looks set to continue through Christmas in much of the contiguous US.

The National Weather Service reported on Friday that an atmospheric river will head south on the West Coast by early next week, bringing the possibility of heavy rain and mountain snow in areas which are under a prolonged “megadrought”.

The heaviest downpours are forecast across central and southern California on Monday and Tuesday where flooding may become an issue in areas which have been left with burn scars from recent wildfires.

The rain will then move east through Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, and the Rockies by midweek. Heavy mountain snow is expected in the Sierra Nevada and Rockies.

However in the Northeast and Central US there will be record warmth, with expected temperatures of 20-35F above normal from Tuesday until Thursday.

Temperatures across the US on Friday

Even though freezing snaps can still be expected, the climate crisis is causing winters to warm across America, Climate Central notes.

For much of the country, winter is the fastest-warming season and in the Northeast this is happening at triple the rate of summer warming.

Chances of a white Christmas in 2021 in cities including New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington DC, and St Louis look very low at this stage, along with regions further south.

However, according to Accuweather’s white Christmas forecast, if you live around the Great Lakes or parts of the central Plains, there’s still a high chance of snow.

Since the beginning of the month, flurries were nowhere to be found in typically snowy climes. Denver finally saw its first snowfall on Friday, after breaking an 87-year-old record for number of days without snowfall. The Mile High City hit 73F (22.8C) on 4 December - tying a record set in 1973.

It’s a similar situation across large areas of the Rocky Mountains, and in western states. The winter snowpack in the mountains is an important water source for the rest of the year.

In the Canadian province of British Columbia, the town of Penticton experienced its highest December temperature in recorded history last week at 72.5F (22.5C). Salt Lake City, Utah had no snow throughout November, for only the second time since 1976. In Montana, wildfires tore across prairies last week following record heat, high winds and months of drought.

In Hawaii, a state of emergency was declared this week after a dangerous storm barrelled across the island state, bringing risks of flash flooding, mudslides and downed trees. This came after a blizzard warning last weekend. Photos showed the peaks of the Big Island’s dormant volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, capped with snow.

The topsy-turvy forecasts were being attributed to a stagnant jet stream and the effects of a La Niña weather pattern from cooling waters in the equatorial Pacific.

But despite the cooling influence of La Niña, the year 2021 is likely to be one of the hottest on Earth, UK Met Office forecasters have said, showing the “overwhelming” influence of human-driven global heating.

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