Christmas temps vary dramatically year-to-year

Published 12:34 pm Saturday, December 18, 2021

By Skip Rigney

What does Santa Claus wear when he delivers presents to the good boys and girls of south Mississippi? Some years his North Pole wardrobe probably feels very appropriate. Other years, not so much.

In 1989 the jolly old elf needed his usual Arctic-inspired fur-trimmed red coat, pants, stocking cap, wool socks, and boots, supplemented with a set of thermal long johns. When his reindeer swooped into Pearl River County that Christmas Eve, the temperature was already in the teens and falling fast. If he was a little behind schedule and tarried until near daybreak, he must have felt right at home as the mercury set the Christmas Day low temperature record in Poplarville at 6 degrees.

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But, if St. Nick sticks with that same polar outfit every Christmas Eve when he visits us, he runs the risk of overheating and maybe even heat stroke. About ten percent of the years, temperatures are in the 60s when Santa arrives in the wee hours of Christmas morning. In 2015, the temperature barely made it below 70 degrees.

In three years out of the past one hundred, if Santa hadn’t been in such a hurry to make deliveries elsewhere, he could have stuck around south Mississippi on Christmas Day and relaxed in shorts and a tank top as the thermometer needle nudged 80 degrees. This Christmas Eve and Christmas Day aren’t forecast to be that warm. But, they are likely to be on the mild end of the spectrum. That would be in keeping with the trend so far this month. The first half of December 2021 has been the 5th warmest in the last 124 years in south Mississippi.

After a cold front with rain moves through tonight, you might be fooled into thinking that a cool Christmas is on the horizon. The front is forecast to become stationary to our south in the Gulf of Mexico. We will turn cool with mostly cloudy skies Sunday and Monday.

Computer models predict that on Monday low pressure will develop along the old front in the Gulf. As the low moves eastward along the front and throws moisture northward, rain chances will return. If the track and strength of the Gulf low do bring us rain, precipitation accumulations from Monday through Tuesday morning will likely total less than one-quarter inch according to the National Weather Service.

Once the Gulf low moves eastward into the Atlantic, high pressure in the upper atmosphere centered over northern Mexico will expand and move our way. As it does, more sunshine will return to south Mississippi, and temperatures will warm a little each day beginning Wednesday.  By Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, temperatures will begin in the 50s each morning and warm into the 60s or 70s in the afternoons. Looks like Santa can leave his thermal underwear at home this year.

As to whether he’ll need to bring his rain slicker, different computer models are currently giving different answers. Santa should check for updated forecasts from the National Weather Service in Slidell online at