Calgary likely to see white Christmas after getting less snow than Mississippi so far this month

"It truly is weird" that Calgary hasn't had a flake of snow this December, says Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips — but adds we shouldn't expect the balmy weather to last until the new year.

Calgary hasn't 'had a flake of snow in December ... It truly is weird,' says climatologist David Phillips

Calgary has had such mild weather in December that there's no snow on the ground in many places and some rinks like the one on the left are mostly water. But Environment Canada says Calgarians likely can expect a white Christmas this year. (Mike Symington/Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Calgary will likely see snow Christmas morning despite the past week of record-breaking — sometimes double-digit — enjoyable temperatures, a climatologist says. 

Temperatures at the airport on Saturday broke a 127-year heat record at 15.4 C.

In many parts of the city, that felt closer to 16 or 17 C in the sunshine, Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

"You haven't had a flake of snow in December," he said. "They've had more snow in Mississippi and Louisiana than Alberta. It truly is weird."

David Phillips is a senior climatologist with Environment Canada. (Environment and Climate Change Canada)

The federal weather service predicts no snow and temperatures well above freezing through to next Sunday at least.

This balminess is not going to continue.- David Phillips, climatologist

A few centimetres of snow are expected next week and temperatures after that will stay cool, helping to keep snow stuck to tree branches and lawns, Phillips said.

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"All you need is two centimetres of snow sitting on there on Christmas morning and that gives you a white Christmas," Phillips said. "This balminess is not going to continue right through to the new year."

Calgary has had measurable snow on the ground for about 58 per cent of the Christmas days from 1955 to 2015, according to Environment Canada's historical data, as well as for each of the past two years.

'Reality sets in'

Usually, Calgarians brace for a sudden change after such nice weather — but this month's transition won't so dramatic, he said.

"This warm kind of balmy conditions — tropical almost — and then all of a sudden, reality sets in. You get Siberian air and you're going from muscle shirts and tank tops to snow pants and parkas and balaclavas," Phillips said.

Also, strangely, this warm weather isn't from a chinook, he said. Instead, a high pressure area covering the western half of the continent is creating balmy, sunny and very dry conditions in the north.

Further south, that area has shifted winds east to west toward the coast, which speed up through mountains and canyons, he said.

Firefighters keep a close eye on nearby flames in Carpinteria, Calif. A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California's largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

Those strong, gusting winds and dry conditions are making wildfire fighting efforts even more difficult in California, he said.

Wildfires in that state have destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings, forcing more than 200,000 people to evacuate.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener