How common are white Christmases in the Valley and how is it looking this year?

Weather Specials

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – With Christmas now less than 10 days away, the question of whether or not we have a blanket of snow on the ground is on a lot of minds. Snowfall records for December 25 at our official climate reporting station, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Airport in Vienna, go back to 1934.

Before we dive into how our chances of a white Christmas are looking this year, let’s dive into the stats on how common white Christmases are and what years hold the records.

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS?
Before diving in, we need to define what qualifies as a white Christmas. According to the National Weather Service, a white Christmas is defined as 1″ of snowfall on the ground on Christmas morning. Our snowfall records go back to 1934 so we have data for the last 87 Christmases. Based on the numbers, it is actually more common for us to have no snow on the ground on December 25 than it is to have a white Christmas.

PAST WHITE CHRISTMASES
For the last 87 Christmases, 38 have met the criteria of having a reported snow depth at or above 1″. That means 49 of them have not had snow on the ground.

To break that down further, 55% of the last 87 Christmases have not been white Christmases compared to 45% that have occurred with 1″ of snow reported on the ground at some point during the day. It is important to note that snow depth is recorded as an average for the day so it isn’t possible to confirm if all of the 1″+ depths were on the ground in the morning.

While the odds of seeing at least 1″ of snow on the ground Christmas morning are decent, the odds of seeing a thick blanket of snow are much lower. Of the last 87 Christmases, only 20% had a reported snow depth of 3″ or more, 7% reported 6″ or more on the ground, and we have never recorded a Christmas where the snow depth was at or above 1 foot.

CHRISTMAS SNOW RECORDS
Christmas Day Snowfall
The most snowfall recorded on Christmas Day occurred last year! The most snow to fall on Christmas Day was 5.8″ in 2020. Prior to last year, the record for most snowfall on December 25 was 5.4″ set in 2002. Below is the list of the 10 Christmases with the most snowfall.

Most Snowfall on December 25th
1. 5.8″ — 2020
2. 5.4″ — 2002
3. 3.0″ — 1993
4. 2.5″ — 1975
5. 1.7″ — 2003
6. 1.5″ — 1966
7. 1.2″ — 1995
8. 1.1″ — 1989
9. 1.1″ — 1970
10. 1.0″ — 1979 & 1944

Most Snow On The Ground Christmas Day
The Christmas Day with the most snow reported on the ground was Christmas Day 1995. The average snow depth reported at the airport in Vienna that year was 10″. The Christmas with the second highest snow depth occurred last year. Christmas Day 2020 averaged 7.1″ of snow on the ground. Below is the list of the top 10 Christmases with the greatest snow depth.

Highest Snow Depth of December 25
1. 10″ — 1995
2. 7.1″ — 2020
3. 7″ — 1968
4. 7″ — 1963
5. 7″ — 1960
6. 7″ — 1944
7. 6″ — 2010
8. 5″ — 1969
9. 4″ — 2004
10. 4″ — 1993/89/85/80

OTHER STATS
Warmest
The warmest Christmas Day on record occurred in 1982. On that day, the high was 66°. The day also holds the record for the warmest low temperature, coming in at 60°. The normal high is 35°.

Coldest
The coldest Christmas on record came just one year after the warmest. Christmas Day 1983 only had a high of 1° and the low temperature was -12°. The normal low for Christmas Day is 22°.

Wettest
The wettest Christmas on record is Christmas Day 1979. A total of 1.86″ of precipitation was measured on that day. The high that day was 51° and the low was 33°. The average amount of precipitation for December 25 is 0.11″.

Based on the historical climate data for the date, there is a fairly high chance of seeing wet weather on December 25. The number of Christmases measuring at or above 0.01″ of liquid precipitation comes in at 49% since records have been kept.

SO WHAT ABOUT 2021 — WILL WE HAVE A WHITE CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR?
As of right now, it isn’t looking too promising for a white Christmas for the Valley this year. While there is still time for the data to change and become more favorable for accumulating snowfall, the pattern is continuing to trend warmer than average. We will see a drop in temperatures this weekend and a chance for some lake effect snow Sunday. However, the current consensus in the data is for temperatures rising back above average mid-week next week.

Where the hope lies is on Christmas Eve. There is data suggesting colder air tries to dig into the lower Great Lakes around Christmas Eve. If this coincides with a storm system moving through the region, or a northwest flow of air that’s not too dry over the lakes, then we’d have a chance at some snow. However, the data is still too far out to put any faith in any specifics in the data. At this point, a white Christmas is still looking possible but not too promising. I’d put our chances right now around a 20% chance at a white Christmas. With around nine days to go, there is plenty of time for that data to change and we will be tracking it closely. Tune in to our newscasts or check back here at WYTV.com for the latest forecast and, most importantly, happy holidays to you and yours!

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