For the East Coast, 2015 will likely be remembered as the year without a Christmas. It’s not because of the Grinch or Scrooge or anything. Instead, the normal cold weather and snowy trappings of Christmas will be MIA for much of the eastern U.S.

Nearly relentless warmth since early November has created a meteorological Groundhog Day, trapping the East Coast in perpetual fall. Factoring in September and October, the U.S. also had its hottest autumn on record.

Two climate patterns are helping steer mild air into the region. El Niño and the North Atlantic Oscillation are both keeping the jet stream further north than usual. That’s prevented colder, polar air from dropping into the region and set up an exceptional stretch of weather. Climate change has also contributed to rising winter temperatures making it easier for stretches like this to occur.

U.S. temperature anomaly Christmas

Temperature departures from normal from Dec. 21-26.


Daily record highs have been killing record lows. Over the past seven days, 2,139 daily high temperature records have been set while only six (yes, six) daily low records have been set. That’s a ratio of 356:1 in case you’re counting.

For the last 30 days, it’s a little less extreme but still telling of the prevailing weather pattern in the U.S. There have been 4,032 daily high temperature records set to only 1,048 daily low records, with most of those lows occurring in the western half of the country.

In the long run, record highs have increasingly outpaced record lows as the world has warmed. In 2013 and 2014, that trend briefly reversed (thanks a lot, polar vortex) but this year is poised to put the U.S. back on track for more record setting heat.

Snow cover sadness

Snow cover on Dec. 14 this year and in 2014. (h/t Matt Lanza)

Snow is in short supply east of the Rockies. With the exception of a few bursts of snow, snowfall east of the Rockies has also been a bust so far this year. Buffalo shattered a 116-year-old record for no measurable snow and the Northeast is mostly snow-free with the exception of a patch in northern Maine (and the manmade stuff on ski slopes). The lack of snow has also helped reinforce heat as darker ground absorbs more heat.

Forecasts are about as sure as possible that the pattern will continue for Christmas…and beyond. El Niño can help improve the clarity around forecasts because its impacts are so pronounced. The next two weeks is no exception. After a brief bout of seasonal coolness and a few areas of snow this weekend, forecasts heavily favor mild air and very little snowfall in the region around Christmas.

Camelback Ski Resort

Camelback Ski Resort in Pennsylvania's Poconos on Dec. 14. The resort is unlikely to see skiers for awhile at this rate. 

The Upper Midwest will see snow that could stick around through Christmas, but you can basically forget about a White Christmas if you live south of Massachusetts and east of the Mississippi. The odds are literally zero.

The week around Christmas will see temperatures up to 20-30°F above normal from Chicago to Boston to Charlotte. That means more daily high temperature records could be set before the year is out and any ski vacations in Vermont and New Hampshire will be marred by spring-like conditions.


El Niño makes warmer than normal conditions more likely in the northern tier of the U.S. during winter. And with this year’s super El Niño likely to continue into early 2016, the winter seasonal forecast indicates that pattern is likely to play out, with increased chances for mild weather through at least February. And global warming is likely to make these types of winters more common in the long run, just like it’s made this year the hottest on record for the globe.

As for Christmas, if you’re jonesing for a dose of cold and snow, there’s always Alaska.