Christmas Day Weather Extremes Climatology

Christmas Day Weather Extremes and Climatology

 As we look forward to celebrating the Christmas Holiday, it's always interesting to look back and see what happened, weatherwise, in the past.

Some generalities: The warmest Christmas on record, over the eastern U.P. and northern Lower Michigan, was 1982. High temperatures were around 30 degrees above typical levels (normal) for Christmas Day. No one year stands out as the coldest, but 1924, 1983 and 2004 were some of the coldest. The record coldest high temperatures are especially interesting.

One fascinating pattern is that, even though Traverse City has the highest chance of a brown Christmas (of the six sites listed below), some of the largest snowfalls on Christmas Day occurred there.

One of the nastiest Christmas Days, on record, occurred in 1992. Heavy lake-enhanced snow fell over parts of the eastern U.P. and northwest Lower. Where the snow bands persisted over the eastern U.P., 8 to 15 inches of snow fell. Meanwhile, 12 to 15 inches of new snow fell from part of Grand Traverse county into central Antrim county.

Windy conditions, combined with heavy snow, to produce near blizzard conditions, with occasional whiteouts. Winds were sustained between 20 and 35 mph, with frequent gusts of 45 to 50 mph. Peak gusts over land averaged 55 mph. At 400 pm, a wind gust of 70 mph was recorded at the Mackinac Bridge. The bridge was closed to all high-profile vehicles for a time. The Soo Coast Guard closed the St. Mary's river to vessel navigation, for nine hours. There were many traffic accidents, unfortunately, resulting in eight fatalities.

 ALPENA

Period of Record: 1916 to present

TEMPERATURES

SNOWFALL

Record high: 65 in 1982 Snowiest: 6.0 in 1918
Record low: -18 in 1985 Greatest snowdepth: 22 in 2008
Record coldest high: 11 in 1985 Last brown Christmas: 2006
Record warmest low: 39 in 1932 Number of Brown Christmas's: 18
Normal high: 29

Top 5 Snowfalls

Normal low: 14

6.0 in 1918

 

2.7 in 1967

 

2.4 in 1966

 

2.0 in 1962

 

2.0 in 1957

 CADILLAC

Period of Record for Temperatures: 1909 to present
Period of Record for Snowfall: 1909 to 1992 

TEMPERATURES

SNOWFALL

Record high: 54 in 1982 Snowiest: 4.0 in 1910
Record low: -15 in 2004 Greatest snowdepth: 21 in 1910
Record coldest high: 6 in 1924 Last brown Christmas: n/a
Record warmest low: 40 in 1982 Number of Brown Christmas's: 10
Normal high: 28

Top 5 Snowfalls

Normal low: 13

4.0 in 1910

 

3.5 in 2008 *

 

3.0 in 1970

 

2.8 in 1945

 

2.7 in 1947

 * estimated from a neighboring cooperative observation site

HOUGHTON LAKE

Period of Record: 1913 to present

 

TEMPERATURES

SNOWFALL

Record high: 59 in 1982 Snowiest: 2.7 in 1945
Record low: -20 in 1921 Greatest snowdepth: 20 in 2008
Record coldest high: 7 in 1983 Last brown Christmas: 2006
Record warmest low: 38 in 1932 Number of Brown Christmas's: 15
Normal high: 28

Top 5 Snowfalls

Normal low: 14

2.7 in 1945

 

2.0 in 1918

 

1.9 in 1990

 

1.5 in 1925

 

1.4 in 1992

 GAYLORD

Period of Consistent Record: 1952 to present

 

TEMPERATURES

SNOWFALL

Record high: 59 in 1982 Snowiest: 7.5 in 1938
Record low: -20 in 1921 Greatest snowdepth: 30 in 1985
Record coldest high: 8 in 1924 Last brown Christmas: 2006
Record warmest low: 36 in 1982 Number of Brown Christmas's: 4
Normal high: 27

Top 5 Snowfalls

Normal low: 13

7.5 in 1938

 

7.0 in 1979

 

6.5 in 1977

 

5.5 in 1974

 

5.0 in 1993

 SAULT ST MARIE

Period of Record: 1888 to present

TEMPERATURES

SNOWFALL

Record high: 47 in 1982+ Snowiest: 8.0 in 1992
Record low: -20 in 1980 Greatest snowdepth: 34 in 1995
Record coldest high: 0 in 1968 Last brown Christmas: 2006
Record warmest low: 23 in 1986+ Number of Brown Christmas's: 4
Normal high: 24

Top 5 Snowfalls

Normal low: 10

8.0 in 1992

 

5.9 in 1977

 

5.2 in 1933

 

4.8 in 1993

 

4.7 in 1894

+ indicates that record occurred in multiple years. The latest occurrence is listed.

 TRAVERSE CITY

Period of Record: 1896 to present

TEMPERATURES

SNOWFALL

Record high: 58 in 1982 Snowiest: 7.4 in 1995
Record low: -6 in 2004 Greatest snowdepth: 23 in 1989
Record coldest high: 7 in 1983 Last brown Christmas: 2006
Record warmest low: 37 in 1932 Number of Brown Christmas's: 21
Normal high: 30

Top 5 Snowfalls

Normal low: 18

7.4 in 1995

 

7.0 in 1985

 

6.4 in 1993

 

6.0 in 1992

 

5.0 in 1918

 The probability of a white Christmas, in the eastern U.P. and northern Lower Michigan, is high (76% to near 100%). The lowest probabilities extend from Oscoda down into the Saginaw Bay Valley. Note the area of near 100% probabilities from Kalkaska to Mancelona to Elmira and Wolverine. This is where the terrain increases sharply, and is indicative of the heavy lake effect snows that fall over this narrow strip. Although rare, the last brown Christmas, for our entire forecast area, was 2006.

 Probability of a White Christmas

 

 

 

 

 



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