Dreaming of a White Christmas

Christmas has officially come and gone, and we hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful holiday! The only thing “missing” from mine was a white Christmas. Growing up in Alabama, I had little to no chance of seeing snow on Christmas morning…although that never stopped me from asking Santa for a little snow on Christmas morning! It’s actually more likely for us to receive severe weather on Christmas than a Christmas snowfall. In fact, that’s exactly what happened just a few years ago. A powerful low-pressure system moved out of the Plains on December 25, 2012, producing a large-scale tornado outbreak across parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle.

SPC Storm Reports for December 25, 2012. Courtesy NOAA/NWS.

However, once I moved north to New York, I just knew I was going to see that beautiful, fluffy white stuff falling from the sky on Christmas morning. Although we did wake up to a dusting of snow on Christmas Eve, it quickly melted, and we were left without a white Christmas in the Capital Region this year. A “white Christmas” is traditionally considered one with an inch or more of snow on the ground. Unfortunately for most of the United States, the likelihood of that happening on Christmas Day is very low.

Historical Probability of a White Christmas. Courtesy NOAA/Climate.gov.

This map shows the climatological probability of at least 1 inch of snow being on the ground on December 25 in the contiguous United States. The dark grey shading indicates places where the probability is less than 10 percent, while the white shows probabilities greater than 90 percent. This map is based on the 1981–2010 Climate Normals, which are the latest three-decade averages of several climatological measurements based on observations at approximately 9,800 stations operated by NOAA’s National Weather Service. Minnesota, Maine, upstate New York, Alleghany Mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Idaho, the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains are where you have the best chances for a white Christmas. As for Albany, New York? The weather history suggests that there is a 45 percent chance of a Christmas snow at the Albany International Airport.

While the map shows the historical probability that a snow depth of at least one inch will be observed on December 25, the actual conditions in any year may vary widely from these because the weather patterns present will determine the snow on the ground or snowfall on Christmas day. For prediction of your actual weather on Christmas Day or any day, check out your local forecast at Weather.gov.

Snow cover at 1:00 AM on December 25, 2018. Courtesy NOAA/NWS/NOHRSC

If you would like to keep track of the snowfall across the United States on a daily basis, bookmark the homepage of the little-known weather service office in Chanhassen, Minnesota – the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center. They are responsible for monitoring total snow and ice cover in the U.S.

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