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Dreams of a Brown Christmas Shaping Up

After a handful of “coincidental” misses, the Fargo-Moorhead area has officially recorded only a trace of snow, Daryl Ritchison, the North Dakota assistant state climatologist, said.

Although uncommon, snowless Decembers and brown Christmases do occur, Ritchison said.

“Historically, we only have a white Christmas in Fargo-Moorhead 84 percent of the time,” he said, which averages to be one or two brown Christmases a decade.

The last brown Christmas happened in 2011.

“I remember that (year) very well,” Ritchison said, “because everyone asked me and was so surprised, saying, ‘Wow, I can never remember having a brown Christmas.’”

Before 2011, however, the last brown Christmas occurred in 2006.

Earlier storms dumped snow south of the F-M area, and minor systems have whitened northern and western parts of the tri-state region, Ritchison said.

“But we have yet to have one inch of snow in Fargo-Moorhead for one event this season,” Ritchison said.

This lack of snow is the 17th-latest ever in F-M recorded history.

If Fargo-Moorhead remains snowless for another week, it would enter the top-10 latest occurrence of snow, but Ritchison said it does not take much to coat the ground.

“It only takes a very minor disturbance to trigger an inch or two of snow,” he said.

Sprinkles of moisture can lead to a white Christmas, but the temperatures have to be below 32 degrees.

Although the first week of December has been 10-15 degrees above average, the cold snap over the last three weeks brought temperatures 10-20 degrees below average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Sunday brought temperatures above freezing.

“Because it’s been so horrifically cold the last three weeks,” Ritchison said, “ … 34 degrees just happens to feels warm.”

“If we would have brought someone up from Atlanta (Sunday) night, they would have thought they somehow got transported to purgatory. It’s always perspective.”

The relative warmth is not likely to persist all winter long, however.

Ritchison said he has a “strong suspicion” cold might return later during the holidays into the new year.

However, winters this late with snowfall tend to end with lower than average amounts of snow, Ritchison said.

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