White Christmas? A Look Through The Record Books

probability of white Christmas


Each year as the holiday season approaches, the age old question arises: “Will we
have a white Christmas?” Weather records for the Goodland area indicate
that the odds are against having measurable snow occur on Christmas day, or
having snow on the ground Christmas morning from a previous snowfall.
However, a few recent Christmas Days have beaten those odds. On Christmas
morning in 2004 there was 1” of snow on the ground, and in 2006 the ground was
covered with 5” of snow and as recently as last year Goodland received half an inch of snow.

Weather records for Goodland date back to the 1895, however, some parameters were
not consistently reported until about 1910. Looking back through the records,
the year with the most snow on the ground Christmas morning occurred in 1941,
when a 13 inch snow depth was measured. In addition, almost four inches of new
snow fell during the day. 1982 was also a big year for snow around the
holidays, with 10 inches of snow reported on the ground Christmas morning.

Here is a list of the years having a white Christmas, defined by a snow depth
measurement of 1 inch or greater in the morning:

13 inches: 1941
10 inches: 1982
8 inches: 1939
5 inches: 1997, 2006
4 inches: 1968, 1973
2 inches: 1983, 1985, 1998
1 inch: 1948, 1952, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1984, 2004, 2007

Here is a list of years having a white Christmas, defined by measurable snowfall
of 0.1 inch or greater during the day:

3.9 inches: 1941
3.3 inches: 1939
1.3 inches: 1982
1.2 inches: 1966
1.2 inches: 1985
1.0 inches: 1930
0.5 inches: 2007
0.3 inches: 1997
0.1 inches: 2000

To put the weather records in perspective, the Goodland office has reported a snow
depth of 1 inch or greater on Christmas morning in 18 of 95 years, or 19% of
the time. During this same period of record, measurable snow falling on
Christmas day itself occurred in 10 of 95 years, or 11% of the time. Combining
those years when snow either fell Christmas day or snow was already present
from a previous snowfall, the probability of a white Christmas is 22/95, or 23%, or about one in four.

To view the probabilities of a white Christmas for other locations across the
country visit: http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/extremes/christmas.html

If you are traveling through the Tri-state area this holiday season, drive safely,
and don’t forget to check for the latest National Weather Service forecasts,
warnings and advisories on NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards, or visit our web
site at: weather.gov/goodland

David Floyd
Warning Coordination Meteorologist
National Weather Service Goodland KS

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