Wondering about the probability of a white Christmas where you live?

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

Here’s a handy map. Click it or follow this link to zoom in interactively on your city or town.

Minnesota. Maine. Upstate New York. The Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Practically anywhere in Idaho. And of course, the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These are the parts of the Lower 48* where weather history suggests you want to be if you’re looking for the best chance of a white Christmas.

The map at right shows the historic probability of there being at least 1 inch of snow on the ground in the Lower 48 states on December 25 based on the latest (1981-2010) U.S. Climate Normals from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The background map shows interpolated values for all locations. (Interpolating means estimating unknown values using known values and physical relationships, such as the way temperature is known to change with altitude.) You can also click and zoom in to specific stations used for the interpolation.

Darkest gray shows places where the probability is less than 10%. (Sorry West Coast, Gulf Coast, Deep South!) White shows probabilities greater than 90 percent.

The 1981–2010 Climate Normals are the latest three-decade averages of several climatological measurements. This collection 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 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. These probabilities are useful as a guide only to show where snow on the ground is more likely.  For prediction of your actual weather on Christmas Day, check out your local forecast at Weather.gov.

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. For a more detailed assessment of the probability of a white Christmas as well as documentation of the methodology used to calculate the map’s underlying climatological statistics, see the scientific paper, White Christmas? An Application of NOAA’s 1981-2010 Daily Normals, by NCEI scientists and published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. You can also download a spreadsheet to see the full list of stations and their historic probabilities.

*The station network in Alaska is too sparse to allow scientists to interpolate with confidence.

From NOAA/NCEI Authors: Susan Osborne Rebecca Lindsey

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46 thoughts on “Wondering about the probability of a white Christmas where you live?

  1. I’m staying in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and it’s not looking promising for a White Christmas unless there is an explosion at the pillow factory.

    We planned it that way.
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    .
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    Neat map to play with. Thanks!

    • Cheer Up…You could always have a Hail Storm pass and drop a few inches of the other frozen H20 White Stuff

  2. It has snowed here in the past 12 years, but the inch of snow on the ground has only happened once. I live outside Austin TX.

  3. I live in central Virginia; we already HAD our December snow, and then some (it was more like a January snow). I’m dreaming of a sunny (or even rainy) Christmas this year.

  4. While the map shows the historical probability that a snow depth of at least one inch will be observed on December 25,

    A question:
    Is “historical probability” based on 1981-2010?
    If so, “historical” is hardly the right word.
    Not trying to nitpick, just seeking clarification.

    • I just looked at the post again.
      It does seem to be 1981-2010.
      You were repeating what they said when they said “historical”.

  5. It’s 55 degrees here today in central Wyoming, forecast to stay in the 40’s and 50’s till Saturday. I’m not doubting a white Christmas, just waiting for that weather front that drops the temperature low enough. There’s virtually no snow on the ground, so it needs to bring white stuff with it!!

    (Maybe this year will be one of those 10% didn’t happen years.)

  6. Terrific post. TY, AW (and by extension CtM).
    Did not know this very cool resource existed. Now permabookmarked. Man, would have been useful back when family was planning Xmas vactions between our Wisconsin farm (snomobiles, XCtry skiing) and Colorado (downhill skiing). Another reason to lurk WUWT daily, and occaisionally offer a guest post on a related something or other.

  7. The article persists in using “normal” instead of “average.” Weather doesn’t have normal or abnormal; it has averages. Normal is 98.6F body temperature (established by centuries of observation, including the fact that significant departures from 98.6 can kill you). Normal is 20/20 eyesight, determined by extensive testing.

    I, like one of the commenters above, also live in central Virginia, where last Sunday’s snowstorm gave unto us 10″ of snow here in Mechanicsville and up to 16″ in the western part of Richmond. That amount is above average, to be sure; but if we were to receive such snow, the likelihood (perhaps the “normalcy”) of such an event would be quite obviously in the months of December, January, February, or early March. Thus, I would not call our snow abnormal–it was a fairly typical snow, more than sometimes, but just as cold, just as white, just as difficult to travel in for the first day or two, and at the right time of year. It was not abnormal; it was a tad unusual.

    • John Ware,
      Climate Normals have been defined in the manner used in this paper since 1935, I think, by the predecessors of The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) with the notion that a 30 year average would be something an average person would understand when reading the daily paper or hearing on a radio. In the time before electronic computers this definition also meant that weather agencies did not have to keep recalculating averages every day, month, or year.

      This idea of “Climate Normals” is agreed upon much like, in the USA, July 4th is celebrated as the Nation’s birthday. In fact, neither July 4th nor 1776 are appropriate for the actual birthday of the United States of America — but no one cares.
      Consider “Climate Normals” to be a similar contrivance. It works for about 99.44% of all.

      • Actually, the reason the 30 period for climate normals was chosen was that reliable, widespread data had, at that time, been only available for about 30 years. A better climate period would be 60 years because that is how long it takes the PDO to recycle (I think it is 30 years for the AMO. But I live on the Pacific coast and I don’t pay attention to the Atlantic. 😊)

        • Richard P,
          Use any period of years you prefer for a climate cycle. No one will care.
          For “Climate Normals” it is defined as 30, so use 30.
          The point is that if you write that you are comparing to current “Climate Normals”, then 99.44% of people know what your are comparing to.
          They do not have to look in your appendix D, subsection 3.b, page 42, to find that you are using 60 years of data starting when the PDO began its last turn. And, I can’t find the month that it did.

          • 🤣 You are right. However, the information I got directly from an NWS forecaster, these probabilities are not based on *any* normals, they are solely based on Period Of Record, which varies widely. So caveat emptor.

  8. Talking of snow forecasts, I still chuckle at the comment a female newcaster made to her male co-newscaster about a failed snow prediction , i.e. “where was the 6 (was it 6 or maybe more) inches you promised me last night”

  9. I live in Dickens country, Kent, UK. Arguably where the traditional snowy Christmas was immortalised.

    I have been here 30 years now and never seen a white Christmas.

    I lived in Scotland from 1966 – 1988, geographically one of the more likely places in the UK to experience a white Christmas.

    I didn’t see one there either.

    I did miss one though, the 2009/2010 winter that had the North East coast of Scotland blanketed in the worst snow in living memory, almost 6 months of the white stuff. It was fun for the kids for the first week or two then it made life difficult even with our 21st Century technology.

    Strangely, the official figures don’t reflect the length and impact of that winter on Scotland, nor the rest of the UK for that matter.

    By some strange coincidence I bought a set of winter tyres for my car that year, long before the snow hit, before it was even suspected, and they were the first winter tyres I ever bought.

    How people laughed at me, until I was pulling 4 x 4’s out the snow with my front wheeled drive Citroen people carrier. I jest not……..Oh how I laughed!

    If by some strange quirk fate CO2 is causing the world to warm, and as that warming is predicted to be dominant in the hemispheres during winter and at night, I say we should encourage the release of the stuff into the atmosphere. I mean, it is good for vegetation after all, which is the only observable effect of increased atmospheric CO2 on the planet.

    But I don’t believe for a nanosecond that CO2 plays any significant, direct part in altering the earth’s temperature, so we should really just enjoy our moment in the sun.

    Who knows, this year might be the last we live without a Dickens Christmas, and that wouldn’t be good.

    • I can’t remember a single white Christmas where I’ve lived in the UK (mostly East Midlands and Lancashire) since before 1970. Not one.

      There is now a whole generation of younger people who have probably grown up being told that global warming was going to destroy the planet as well as Christmas, and who now realize that nothing has really changed much in their lifetimes. Hopefully they will also now be telling their own children that the whole malarkey is old threadbare BS, despite what their school teachers and the BBC say.

  10. I live in Canberra, Australia and there’s no chance at all of snow during Christmas. I blame global warming.

    • You live in Canberra?!

      You poor bastard.

      You should move to the Blackout State. I mean we have the most expensive power in the world, a hospital our grandchildren will be paying for, only one sporting stadium, a limited job market and is the place both SHY and Penny Wong come from, BUT… It’s NOT CANBERRA!

  11. Terrific post. TY, AW (and by extension CtM).
    Did not know this very cool resource existed. Now permabookmarked. Man, would have been useful back when family was planning Xmas vacations between our inexpensive Wisconsin farm (snomobiles, XCtry skiing) and very ecpensive Colorado (downhill skiing).
    Another reason to lurk WUWT daily, and occaisionally offer a post on a related something or other.

  12. My “White” privilege is triggered by this.
    Next thing you’ll tell me is, “Baby, It’s cold outside.”

  13. “where weather history suggests”

    Suggests is the correct word. Probability is not valid for snow cover.

    Weather history, averaged, makes for terrible weather predictions.

    It might suffice for normal basic weather patterns during the middle of seasons when nothing unusual is happening weatherwise. But when one is at the beginning or end of a season, or facing a changing weather picture, one looks for a real genuine honest-to-goodness weather prediction.

    The fancy snow probability map doesn’t even qualify as a fun toy.

    One wonders just how much money the government spent on this?

    • Probably not much. With the current tools available for PCs (and Macs) it probably took someone a whole half hour. You are correct though, this is not a probability prediction, it is a historical analysis. In other words. If it says that you have 2% chance of snow then it means that for the period of record (NOT the 30 average) that station has had 1″ of snow on the ground on 2% of the Christmas days.

      For the New England stations that could be quite a lot of Christmas days to count, but for places like PDX where the “official” measurements started in 1949, all the white Christmases between then and 1865 (and there were quite a few because we were still warming from the LIA) don’t count.

      (I had a NWS forecaster explain how it works to me)

  14. Bring in Al Gore and the probability of snow goes significantly up. The phenomenon is well known as the Al Gore Effect.

  15. But when it snows, baby it snows!!! In 2008 Portland Oregon had 24″ on the ground on Christmas Day. The first snow on the ground on Christmas day in more than 70 years.

  16. I think we had our Christmas snow when the slop turned to snow and dropped about 4 inches on us. That, and the power outage that shut off everything except cooking gas, made for a “special” experience. I sincerely wished that my house had a real fireplace, woodburning type, so that I could stay warm and cook, too.

    This month? Unlikely; forecast is for mid-30s (now, could change) and maybe drizzle, but no snow. All part of the cycle of Time.

      • Thank you but I will stick with my low emission 95% efficient central air gas furnace. No wood to chop, no ashes to clean up, and the house is evenly heated. I visited a friend of my wife’s many years who lived outside of Spokane WA who had a wood stove in the living room and it was so hot that windows had to be opened, but in the rear rooms of the house, it was barely above freezing.

        • We have an all electric house, heat pump, water heater and all the rest. 100%
          And we have a modern catalytic wood stove.
          People that live where the temperature can go below 55°F ought to have an emergency source of heat, and for cooking or boiling water.

          In your central air gas house, one night of 15 below F without your heater working does not sound like fun. Next try 2 weeks when the temp doesn’t get above Zero (0.0 °F).

          • I’m sorry, I don’t understand why my natural gas furnace would not work if the temperature is below 0F or even 15F. The only times that there have been major power outages in my area is when we have storms coming off the Pacific Ocean and the air temperatures are then in the 50’s. I have had to put up with a couple of days without heat. Even when we have had blizzards (very rare) the winds weren’t high enough to knock out the power. But many people here keep their houses that cold, so it isn’t all that bad. Having a wood stove with a supply of wood as a backup is a waste of money, especially since it is difficult to keep the wood dry here in the land of the Duck-foot.

            Of course, all the people living down south or in Hawaii (where I used to live) are looking at our posts and going “Nya, nya, nya, I don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff at all.”

  17. At least some children will know what snow is

    David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes – or eventually “feel” virtual cold.

  18. “Practically anywhere in Idaho.” Except along the Snake River – arching across S. Idaho, northward along the Qregon border (Hell’s Canyon) , the Washington border (lower Snake) to Lewiston, ID and the lowest elevation in the state (confluence of Snake and Clearwater rivers @720 feet ASL). The lower Snake and Columbia Basins form what’s know in the Pacific Northwest as “The Banana Belt”.

  19. I’m dreaming of May and seeing dirt again. It’s been winter in Northern Maine for two months already. I define winter as, “wearing longjohns and plowing snow”.

    Thank you for this. I’m having a good laugh because I’ve just come inside from plowing two foot drifts of global warming. Tomorrow I’ll have to rake some global warming off the roof in preparation for a predicted freezing rain and rain event on Friday. Ugh.

    The Sky Really Is Falling financially for potato growers across Canada and some of my neighbors as well. Thousands of acres of potatoes are still in the ground, and now ruined, which represents many millions of dollars of losses.

    I wonder if they qualify for some of that “climate change” money we’re all supposed to cough up.

  20. I guess I am spoiled, as it is a rarity that we DON’T have a white Christmas in MN. It is all I have ever known. Nothing better than wood heat on a snowy Christmas in a cabin in the woods.

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