Donna Pierce watches her dog, Zoey, as she retrieves a stick in the high tide at Sandy Beach Wednesday.

Donna Pierce watches her dog, Zoey, as she retrieves a stick in the high tide at Sandy Beach Wednesday.

Sun and snow

Whether it’s snowfall or sunshine on this year’s Christmas list, Juneauites should find something to smile about when they look outside Friday.

There aren’t expected to be any records broken Christmas day, but this month’s 8.3 inches of snowfall measured by the National Weather Service at Juneau International Airport already blew past last December’s total of 3.5 inches, with more expected to arrive Friday evening.

“What we’re looking at is a Christmas morning a little bit on the chilly side with temperatures in the low 10s to low 20s,” Kimberly Vaughan, the NWS Observation Program leader, said. “We’re probably going to see sunshine… as we move into the evening will be the best chance for snow.”

With the day expected to stay below freezing, accumulated snow will ensure a white Christmas.

While things are looking brighter compared to last year’s snow let-down, it’s still a ways from just two years ago when December saw 40.1 inches of snow.

Vaughan said this month is warmer than Decembers past, 4 degrees warmer than normal to date, however, that figure is unofficial without a full 30-year-normal weather analysis.

“Even though it is cold, it’s all a matter of perspective,” Vaughan said. “For Juneau standards, it’s been warmer than normal for this year.”

The warming climate mixed with El Niño patterns – unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean – hasn’t allowed for the low temperatures necessary to keep thicker levels of snow seen just a few years past, Vaughan said.

However, it only takes a tilt of the head to notice trees’ mountainside transition from green to full-on white. The higher elevation in areas such as Eaglecrest Ski Area have helped keep 84 inches of snow on the ground, according to NWS reports.

The ski resort reports on its website 16 inches of new snow in the past few days with high visibility. The area powdered sooner than expected this year, opening upper-mountain slopes a week early.

Then there are those areas in Juneau where only trace amounts of snow will be present Friday.

“It will be a white Christmas… across the city, but very variable,” Vaughan said.

 

Snowfall During

Decembers Past

2014 – 3.5 inches

2013 – 40.1 inches

2012 – 27 inches

2011 – 14.5 inches

2010 – 20.6 inches

Record High: 1964 –

54.7 inches

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

DJ Mazon kicks a ball for his dog Keeva-Shaa at the Cope Park Ball Field and Dog Run on Wednesday. Keeva means "beautiful" in Gaelic and Shaa means "woman" in Tlingit.

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