Dreaming of a White Christmas?

So, will we see a white Christmas?

Let’s get this out of the way: it’s possible (how’s that for an annoying answer?!).  

Despite the fact that we are in an El Niño year the odds are actually, historically, in our favor.  But first we need to set the parameters.

In order for it to be a “White Christmas” let’s agree that that means there is about 1 inch or more of snow on the ground.  I think that makes the most sense.  In fact, this is how meteorologists everywhere determine whether a Christmas is considered “white”: there must be an inch or more on Christmas morning or it doesn’t count.  We all cool with that?

So what are the historical odds that we have over an inch on Christmas morning?  In SE MI, they are actually pretty good, sitting at 47%.  Since 1900 we have had 115 Christmases and 54 have been “white”.  That’s actually better than I thought before I starting doing research. 

I then got even more curious:  what are the odds that we are blanketed with snow (say, more than 5”) on Christmas morning?  As expected the number is lower, but still higher than I would have thought, honestly. 

The chances are less than 20%, but given our strict parameters above… I’d say that’s not bad.

Random fact I found in researching this: the “whitest” Christmas ever was in 1951 when the day ended with nearly 13” of snow on the ground.  I also learned that “Dragnet” premiered on NBC about a week prior to that, so maybe people got a good chance to catch up on re-runs.  Ahh, the things you find while researching.

I wanted to get a small snapshot of what has happened around here recently so I went back and looked at Christmas the last 5 years.  Here’s what I found:

2014: No snow; Rained Christmas Day
2013: No snow; Big melt off before Christmas
2012: Yes snow; Another 5.8” next day too
2011: No snow; 47º on Christmas Day
2010: Yes snow; 5” on the ground!

What’s kinda nuts is that the last 5 years fall right in line with the average numbers (about 40% for a white Christmas and 20% for major snow).  So what does this mean for this year?

You may remember my post from last week about El Niño (click here in case you missed it) and how it means a warmer and drier December.  That is playing out as expected.  Temps have been warmer and the snow we got in November has all melted because of it. 

I thought it would be interesting to see what happened around here the last time we had an El Niño like this, which would have been December of 1997.  That Christmas was snow-less (although it did rain Christmas day) with had a high temp of 39º.  So, not insanely warm, but not white either.

As I look at the long range models I do see a few days in the middle of the month that could bring some snow, but will that be enough (and will it stay cool enough) for a white Christmas?  It’s tough to tell.  I would say don’t count it out yet, but the chances may be a little closer to 30% this year.  But my fingers are crossed!

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History of 'White Christmas'

Did you know: White Christmas wasn't even written at Christmas time. Irving Berlin got the idea in January of 1940! 

According to NPR, he asked his musical secretary to write down a song and said about it "Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it's the best song anybody ever wrote."

Imagine no Christmas music. Imagine 100.3 didn't go all holiday all the time in November. Thanks to Berlin, you don't have to; his Christmas hit started the musical phenomenon that we celebrate every winter.

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