SIKESTON -- Those dreaming of a white Christmas this year might want to wish a little harder.
A 30 percent chance of snow or rain is forecast Sunday night and Christmas day, but meteorologist Mike York of the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., said it will likely be rain -- although there's a better chance for snow on Christmas day than Christmas eve.
"The historical frequency of a white Christmas across the region averages about 15 percent," York said.
A white Christmas is defined as one with an inch or more of snow on the ground at 6 a.m. The official snow depth is taken once each day at 6 a.m.
The last white Christmas throughout the region was in 2004, when there was 11 inches on the ground at Evansville, Ind., and 9 inches on the ground at Paducah after a major snowstorm on Dec. 22.
Today marks the first day of winter, but meteorologists have tracked winter weather since Dec. 1, which is what they consider the first day of winter.
"The beginning of winter on the calendar is based on astronomy and the sun angle. Meteorological winter is the three coldest months of the year, which is the entire months of December, January and February," York said.
The National Weather Service's official winter outlook for this area is for above normal temperatures and much lower than normal precipitation, York said.
"It started out real cold," York said about the season. "We had a couple of record lows set around the early part of the month and since then, it's been much milder than normal."
This year the region reached a low of 15 degrees on Dec. 4 and a record low of 10 degrees on Dec. 8.
"There is going to be some colder air moving in, and this mild pattern will break before Christmas," York said.
This time of year, the normal high is 44 and the normal low is 25.
"Since we're so far above normal temperatures right now, it might come as a shock to people when the colder weather returns," York said.
For the remainder of the week, highs will be in the 50s and lows in the 30s. On Christmas day, temperatures are expected to reach 43 with a low around 28.