The Weather in Christmas across the United States

For many across the United States, it will be a mild Christmas, not a white one.

For those who need cold weather and snow to get into the holiday spirit, the lead-up to Christmas will disappoint most parts of the United States. Millions will see unusually mild conditions through early next week, with Christmas Day at times even warmer than Halloween.

This unusual warmth may be the perfect gift for holiday travelers during the week because it will reduce the likelihood of devastating winter storms. However, some last-minute travelers may not be so lucky this weekend.

According to AAA's year-end holiday forecast, the 10-day holiday travel period that begins Saturday will likely be the busiest on record at U.S. airports. Finally, 115 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this holiday season. Here's what many of them can expect.

Everything is clear in the East, but travel problems in the West

Conditions will be largely dry and calm for travelers across the eastern half of the United States through Friday. Some rain will extend from the southern Plains into the Midwest Friday into Saturday, but heavy rain and flooding are unlikely.

There is a greater chance of turbulent travel weather in the West this week as at least two storms could cause problems. The first storm will bring wet weather to California Wednesday into Friday. Low-level rain is likely across much of the state, while several inches of snow will fall in the Sierra Nevada.

A flood threat will develop in parts of Southern California - especially coastal areas - with frequent rounds of persistent rain and some thunderstorms developing each day through Friday. Stormy weather will push to the southwest later Friday, affecting the area through Saturday.

A second damaging storm will bring low-altitude rain and high-altitude snow to the Pacific Northwest on Friday and move into the Rockies on Saturday. These two destructive storms will combine to form a larger storm in the Rocky Mountains late Saturday and spread snow from Montana into Arizona and New Mexico through Sunday.

A storm will move through the Rocky Mountains on Saturday and impact the central United States on Sunday. 

A large band of rain will extend from the Southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley into the Midwest on Sunday as the Christmas Eve storm expands in scope. Along with persistent precipitation, breezy conditions may develop across the central United States.

Snowfall could disrupt Christmas Eve travel in Denver and Salt Lake City, while rain and strong wind gusts could cause problems from Dallas to Minneapolis.

Records are at risk at Christmas

Normally, a big storm in the central United States on Christmas Eve would likely mean snowfall over a much larger swath of the region — but this year is different.

Extremely moderate and perhaps record temperatures are expected to develop across the region due in part to the influence of El NiƱo, a natural ocean and weather pattern in the tropical Pacific that affects weather worldwide.

Temperatures over Christmas will be more than 20 degrees above average in parts of the Midwest and about 10 degrees above average in areas farther south. For many, it will feel like late October or early November, not late December.

Daily high-temperature records are in jeopardy across the upper Midwest on Saturday and across more of the Midwest and Plains on Christmas Eve. Record warmth will likely extend into Christmas Day in the Midwest.

The high temperature in Minneapolis is expected to reach the upper 40s on Christmas Day. The city typically only reaches the mid-20s in late December, but it could be approaching its warmest Christmas Day on record this year.

Despite 20 degrees above normal in the forecast, record warmth is far off on Christmas Day in Chicago. Temperatures will likely reach the mid-50s, about 15 degrees warmer than the city was on Halloween.

Christmas Day is expected to be warmer than Halloween in many major cities, from Minneapolis and Chicago to St. Louis.

With the warmth and rain also comes a faint amount of snow on the ground, known as snow cover, across the United States. According to NOAA, only 15.7% of the U.S. mainland had snow on the ground as of Wednesday morning. Most of this snow cover is in the Rocky Mountains, and some is in the higher terrain of the Northeast.

Snow falling across the Rockies this weekend will likely raise overall snow coverage slightly. But that may not be enough to prevent this year from some of the least extensive Christmas snow cover in two decades.

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