Snow of Christmas Past, Present, & Future
Probabilities of a white Christmas for select US and Northeast cities.
We look at Christmases past to determine the probability of having a white Christmas. Fairbanks, AK has had snow on the ground every Christmas from 1969 through 2018! Looking at those same 50 years, Pinkham Notch has a 91% probability of a white Christmas. See probabilities for other select U.S. and Northeast cities.
Snow for Christmas present is a bit uncertain for the Northeast, as some of the early December snowfall has since melted. The outlooks favor above-normal temperatures for much of the country, which could lead to additional melting before the holiday. But, there is still time for a Christmas miracle. Check your local National Weather Service office for an up-to-date forecast.
Snow cover as of December 16th. Credit: NOAA, National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center
Temperature (left) and Precipitation (right) Outlooks produced by the NOAA, Climate Prediction Center.
What does Christmas future look like? Well, if we take closer inspection of Christmases past we’ll have an idea. We made a time series of the amount of snow on the ground on December 25 for the last 50 years for several cities and found that Christmas Day snow depth has a clear decreasing trend in the Northeast. And climate models support a further decrease as winter temperatures continue to warm.
This time series shows Christmas Day snow depth decreasing over the last 50 years.
Time series for other cities: Binghamton, NY | Buffalo, NY | Burlington, VT | Caribou, ME | Concord, NH | Duluth, MN | Erie, PA | Fairbanks, AK | Grand Forks, ND | Ithaca, NY | Madison, WI | Portland, ME | Rochester, NY | Salt Lake City, UT | Sioux Falls, SD | Syracuse, NY
If green house gas emissions continue to increase at the current rate, only the areas shown in white will have 30 days of snow on the ground during a winter season. Image Source: Frumhoff, P.C., et al. 2007. Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol