By: Meteorologist Paul Trambley
Updated: Feb 25th 2019

Professor Paul Thursday - Chances of a White Christmas

Today's Topic: Chances of a White Christmas


Each year, children and adults alike wonder if the upcoming Christmas will be white, or if they will be left only to dream of a white Christmas. Across the lower 48, certain areas can nearly bank on having a snowless Christmas, while others can rest assured it will almost always be white. The image provided gives the percentage chance that any region in the lower 48 has of seeing a white Christmas from year to year. These percentages were compiled based on data from the years 1981 to 2010. As expected, the southern regions of the country almost always see a brown or green Christmas each year, while mountainous regions, as well as the far north, can come to expect it. Areas shaded in white have a white Christmas over 90% of the time, while the brown regions have less than a 10% chance of seeing one.


You may be wondering what criteria must be met in order for a Christmas to be considered a white one. The accepted rule is that there must be at least one inch of snow on the ground on Christmas Day. This official measurement is usually taken around 6 am on December 25th.


While most areas of the lower 48 can only hope for a white Christmas from year to year, residents of northeast MN, the Upper Peninsula of MI, and northern New England are nearly assured of having a white Christmas each year. Marquette, Michigan has records that have been taken since 1961. Since then, only three Christmases have been brown. This rare phenomenon occurred in 2015, as well as back in 1994 and 2006. The average snow depth for Marquette on Christmas Day is 15 inches. Marquette is currently reporting 13-15 inches on the ground as of December 12th. Bangor, Maine has records dating back to 1925. Since 1925, they have only experienced 6 brown Christmases. The last time this occurred was in 2010. The average snow depth in Bangor on Dec. 25th is 8 inches and the current snow depth is zero. There will be more opportunities for them to get snow before Christmas Day, but it may come down more to the wire than is expected.


If you are wondering what area of the country will see the deepest snow this Christmas, look to the the Cascade Range in Washington State. A reporting station on the eastern side of Mount Rainier National Park, called Chinook Pass, is reporting a snow depth of 377 inches (or just over 31.4 feet). That isn't too far from the record snow depth reported in North America back on March 11th, 1911, in Tamarack, CA. On that day, a whopping 453 inches was measured in this town on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. 


Closer to sea level, white Christmases can be much harder to come by for much of the lower 48. To see what your percentage chance of having a white Christmas is, open this map and click on the circle nearest to you. 


white Christmas
Areas shaded in purple and white can expect a white Christmas most years
brown Christmas
Brown Christmases are expected in the majority of the U.S. from year to year
Criteria for a white Christmas
An inch of snow is needed for a Christmas to be white