All Weather News

White Christmas: What Are the Chances?

13 Dec 2016, 5:56 am

Many of us have fond memories of sitting by the Christmas tree with family, staring out the window to see fluffy white snow blanketing the ground. I mean, come on! They even wrote a song about it. But are they really “just like the ones you used to know,” or is the holiday spirit filling the blanks in your memory bank? Here’s a look at who really has the highest probability of seeing the coveted White Christmas.

This map depicts which places have the best chance of being a winter wonderland according to weather history. Find an interactive version here. The “Historical Probability of a White Christmas” map shows the climatological probability of at least 1 inch of snow being on the ground on December 25 in the contiguous United States. On the map, dark gray shows places where the probability is less than 10 percent, while white shows probabilities greater than 90 percent.

Where does history say you should be in the Lower 48 for the best chance of seeing a white Christmas? Most of Idaho, Minnesota, Maine, Upstate New York, the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and, of course, the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada Mountains all have a high probability of seeing a white Christmas. And, Aspen, Colorado, is just one of about a dozen locations boasting a 100% historical probability of seeing a white Christmas.

This map is based on the 1981–2010 Climate Normals, which are the latest three-decade averages of several climatological measurements. This dataset contains daily and monthly Normals of temperature, precipitation, snowfall, heating and cooling degree days, frost/freeze dates, and growing degree days calculated from observations at approximately 9,800 stations operated by NOAA’s National Weather Service.

While the map shows the climatological probability of snow-covered ground on December 25, the actual conditions this year may vary widely from these probabilities because the weather patterns present will determine if there is snow on the ground or if snow will fall on Christmas Day. These probabilities are useful as a guide only to show where snow on the ground is more likely. For prediction of your actual weather conditions, check out your local forecast at Weather.gov within seven days of Christmas.

If you would like to keep track of the snowfall across the United States on a daily basis, see the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center’s National Snow Analyses.

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