December, 2009 goes into the books as the coldest December in the past 9 years, and one of the coldest Decembers on record with at least three “snow days,” two of which occurred within only days of each other.
The first outbreak of snow on December 2 occurred during our second major cold outbreak of the cool season. After .63” of rain on December 1, the precipitation continued the following day as gusty north winds brought in a significant polar air mass that turned the rain into snow flurries and eventually dropped temperatures deep into the 20’s later that week. Temperatures remained cooler than normal for another 10 days.
Warm air returned briefly on the 13th and 14th with highs of 66 and 72, followed by another dose of cold Canadian air by mid-December. From the 14th through the 23rd our weather was uneventful. Our warmest temperature of the month, 75 degrees, was reached on December 23, just as a line of severe storms broke out generally east of Dallas. While multiple tornadoes were tearing through Lufkin and Longview, the “Christmas Eve Blizzard of ’09” was less than 24 hours away.
By dark on the 23rd, the mercury was already plunging. On December 24, the official maximum temperature of 53 degrees was recorded just after midnight at 12:05 A.M. Clouds, rain and bitter north winds increased all day as local businesses hustled to lock up and send employees home early. By mid-afternoon, the rain was changing over to blowing snow, cancelling thousands of Christmas Eve observances across North Texas.
Officially, DFW recorded 3” of snow, which ended well before midnight Christmas morning. We’ve had worse snows earlier that melted by Christmas, and ice-storms that paralyzed the region around the Christmas holiday, but weren’t technically snowfall.
The generally accepted criteria for a “White Christmas” here in DFW is a measurable, visible, accumulating snowfall of at least 1” on the ground Christmas morning, even if fell the day before. By that standard, it was the first truly “White Christmas” in DFW since 1926. DFW received a final snowfall of .02” on the afternoon of December 29th, less than a week later, although the above-freezing temperatures helped melt away the last traces of the Christmas Eve snow. In all, the 3.2” of snow received during the month, made December of 2009 the snowiest December on record.
Despite the continued El Nino effect of frequent disturbances from the Pacific, December’s official rainfall total of only 1.85” at DFW followed November’s trend of being slightly drier than normal (-.72”) for the month.
The Denton airport received 1.93” of rainfall in December, wrapping up 2009 with 36.40” of moisture which was more than 7 inches above 2008’s annual rainfall.
For the entire year, DFW airport received 40.89” of rain which was not only 6” above normal, but a drastic improvement over 2008’s annual rainfall of only 27 inches.
2009 now ranks as the 23rd wettest year on record in the DFW area. It was neither warmer nor cooler than normal. The preliminary average daily temperature for 2009 was 65.4 degrees, which is 0.2 degrees cooler than the mean average of daily temperatures.
The El Nino continues with unusually warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, both at and below the surface. For that reason, expect January’s weather to follow the cool and damp trend established in the previous two months, with one slight modification based on personal observation. Our total January precipitation may not be heavier than normal, (1.9”) but clouds and precipitation will likely occur more frequently than normal during the month.
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist for WBAP NewsTalk 820 and heard every weekday morning. He also hosts a local website; www.brads-weather.com. The National Weather Service and Paul Ruekberg of “Newswatch Dallas” contributed to this report.