LINCOLN, Neb. -- Dreams of a white Christmas are running dry, the University of Nebraska state climatologist said.

Areas of the state that don't see any snowfall resulting from the system moving across the state Dec. 17-21 probably will remain dry at least until the end of the month, said Al Dutcher, UNL state climatologist.

"The best shot we have for seeing a white Christmas is from this system that began to impact the state this weekend and will slowly move across the Great Plains through Thursday," Dutcher said.

However, this isn't unusual weather for Nebraska, he said.

"If you look statistically, you only get a white Christmas in Nebraska 25 percent of the time across southern Nebraska and up to 40 percent of the time across extreme northern Nebraska," he said. "This isn't surprising as we've had a very dry December due to the current El Nino pattern we are in."

The southern jet stream now is stalled out around Texas and Oklahoma while the northern jet stream stays near the Canadian border -- typical of an El Nino-type pattern, he said.

"Areas in-between get left high and dry," he said.

If the southern jet stream gets more active, storms will move into southern California, and then possibly this way.

However, right now the southern jet stream has been dropping precipitation across the southern U.S.

The entire state of Nebraska is below normal in precipitation for December, Dutcher said.

El Nino patterns also don't bode will for the central Rocky Mountains, he said.

"If you recall, there was unusually heavy snowfall in Colorado and Wyoming this fall, but it has been very dry since then," he said. "The snowpack average has dropped down to 80 percent of normal in Wyoming."

This has several ramifications for Nebraska: Snow melt will get lost in the soil profile as it melts this spring, leaving any shot at recovery of the North Platte River basin dismal, he said.

Future forecasts tend to hold onto this pattern, Dutcher said, with the northern jet stream becoming more active in February and March.

"This would allow systems to move into the central Rockies and allow more precipitation across the central Plains," he said. "This also means more effective rains during that time period."

However, if the northern jet stream does not become more active in the February/March period, it may not become active again until the May/June period, which means the state misses a big component of soil moisture recharge.

"So, what we are really hoping for right now is for the El Nino pattern to weaken," Dutcher said.

On the bright side, the state did have some good soil moisture recharge in August and September. However, several areas are starting to fall behind, at least in eastern Nebraska.

"We really need to get our soil moisture profile recharged, and snowfall this winter is going to be difficult to call," he said.

Forecasts also are calling for above normal temperatures throughout this winter.

"With this weather pattern, we shouldn't have any long periods of arctic air," he said. "We may have a few days of cold weather, but then back to normal or above normal temperatures."

SOURCE: University of Nebraska news release.