The Odds of a White Christmas in Your Town

December 21, 2017

Christmas is just around the corner and we’re all wondering: Will it be a white Christmas? Thanks to careful collection and storage of weather data from hundreds of weather stations across the country, meteorologists know what the odds are of having a white Christmas in your town. The folks at climate.gov have put together an interactive map to find the odds anywhere in the United States.

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For the purposes of calculations, a white Christmas is defined here as having at least one inch of snow on the ground on December 25th. The odds presented here represent the historical probability, based on the thirty years between 1981 and 2010, of a station having a white Christmas. So if a station had one white Christmas between 1981 and 2010, that station has a 1 in 30 or 3% historical chance.

 

Without further adieu, let’s look at a few cities. Starting in the Northeast, Boston has a 19% chance, moving south to the Big Apple with an 11% chance, Philly comes in at 12%, and the nation’s capital at 6%. Moving to the midwest, Cleveland comes in with a 43% chance, Detroit has a white Christmas about every 3 years, and the windy city has a 41% chance. Moving north, Minneapolis, Minnesota gets a white Christmas a whopping 80% of the time and moving west, Denver comes in at 40%.

As you’ll see from the map, the majority of the south gets a white Christmas less than 10% of the time. For example, Atlanta has a 2% chance and has had just two white Christmases on record, one in 1882 and another in 2010 when 1.2 inches of the fluffy stuff fell.

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alaska has a white Christmas nearly every year. The majority of the state sits above the 90% threshold. In fact, Anchorage, Alaska has had 31 consecutive White Christmases while Fairbanks is on a streak of 82 straight. I love the snow, so who’s joining me on a trip to where the moose run the show?

 

My Twitter-friend Brian Brettschneider put together a long list of random Christmas weather facts, I’ll share a notable one here but go check them all out on his Twitter (@climatologist49) or on his blog us-climate.blogspot.com.

 

The coldest winter, nationally, on record was 1983. The days leading up to Christmas of 1983 featured a strong arctic high pressure that brought frigid conditions from the north. Subzero temperatures were recorded as far south as Huntsville, Alabama while much of the Great Plains and Midwest struggled to get out of the single digits.

 

Parts of the Midwest were also hit with feet of snow and locally, blizzard conditions. The lake effect machine turned on and combined with whipping wind to create large snow drifts. What a Christmas day.

 

Do you have a favorite Christmas weather experience? Leave it in the comments.

 

Having said all of this, I bet you’re wondering if there’s a white Christmas in store for 2017? We’re a few days out but I don’t have the answer for you. I’ll refer to your local National Weather Service and TV meteorologists. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

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