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Dreaming of a white Christmas? Central Illinois has a chance

Emily Bollinger
WGLT file
Bloomington-Normal received 24.4 inches of snow last winter, about 3 inches higher than the previous winter.

Could Bing Crosby’s dream come true this year? Below average temperatures could make for a white Christmas in central Illinois.

“Since we are looking at below normal temperatures through Christmas, I think it’ll be cold enough that any precipitation would be snow,” said Alex Irwin, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Lincoln.

Irwin said this year has an advantage in the form of La Niña. It’s a weather phenomenon that typically occurs every three to five years but has returned for a third consecutive winter. Its better-known counterpart, El Niño, is known for warming temperatures in the U.S. La Niña does the opposite. This happens when warm surface water on the Pacific coast is blown west, and deeper, cooler water takes its place on the surface, Irwin explained. This creates a cooling effect across the country, but it’s especially notable in the Midwest.

La Niña also is known for causing an increase in precipitation.

“It does favor above-normal precipitation across a lot of the Midwest, including central Illinois,” Irwin said.

La Niña did not appear to significantly impact snowfall totals last winter in Bloomington-Normal. The area received 24.4 inches of snow during the 2019-2020 winter. Snowfall totals fell to 21.2 inches during the following La Niña winter. The Twin Cities recorded 24.4 inches of snow again last winter.

Bloomington-Normal, based on historical climate data, has a 29% chance of having at least one inch of snow on the ground this Christmas. NWS calls for a chance of snow showers on Dec. 21 — the first day of winter — but it's too far into the future to predict expected snowfall.

Erik Dedo is a reporting and audio production intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.