COLUMBUS (WCMH) – This time of the year one of the biggest, and most important questions we get asked is if we are going to have a white Christmas this year. This is usually followed up by the comment ‘we never get them around here anymore’ or something along those lines.
What is a “white Christmas” by definition?
There is some room for debate on this one, if your yard is cut low like a golf green and temperatures are cold enough, a light amount of snowfall of maybe 1/4″ or less might do the trick. However, most of us think of a white Christmas as one where it is actually covered in a measurable amount of snow. For this definition, we use 1″ for or more of snowfall on the ground.
Using 1″ or more for the white Christmas measurement, how common are they in Central Ohio?
Measurements on snow depth have been kept as early as 1948 out at the airport in Columbus, so for those 69 Christmases that we have snowfall depth measurements, 17 of them (24.6%) of them have been white. This means, on any given year we have about a 1 in 4 chance, historically speaking, of having a white Christmas.
(Map below from NWS NOAA for probability of a white Christmas based off 30 year average)
Below are the listing for the 17 white Christmases we have had in Columbus on record
If you break that down by decade, you notice the 1960s had one almost every other year. Then in the 1970s, we never had a white Christmas. The trend has been a bit lower in the 2010s, but we have had only 7 years vs the other decades.
So what about this year? Do we have a good shot of seeing a white Christmas this year?
In short, no. At this point we are going to see reinforcing shots of colder air moving in through the weekend. There is a weak disturbance that will push to our north on Sunday late into the overnight hours. At this point, it does appear, this should be enough to at least squeeze out some light snow showers after Santa squeezes down the chimney.
The big thing to note over the next few days, is that winter weather systems can shift their timing and positioning a bit over a longer range forecast (in this case 5-6 days out).
Below are 3 different forecast models, American vs. Canadian vs. European long range models. They are snowfall total depth as of 6pm on Christmas Day. One thing is for sure, it is going to be COLD on Christmas, so anything that does fall is sticking and sticking around.
First is the American forecast model through Monday evening.
Notice it brings a bit of light snow to our east/southeast and to our northwest, still keeping us between systems but cold.
Below is the Canadian forecast model for snow depth through Monday evening:
This one hints at more snowfall overall for our area mainly from I-71 and west/northwest as it has that system track closer to our area Sunday night/Monday. This model is currently forecasting a white Christmas for some, north of I-70 and to the west of I-71 generally.
Finally, below is the European long range model ending Monday (12/25) evening:
This model has a lot more snow across our entire area, but is heavily leaning on a more vigorous system on Sunday with plenty of moisture that will bring the bulk of the snow.
This model is also in line with the American forecast model forecast, in that we would see that low sliding up to the east of us Sunday later into early Monday. This model is just a lot wetter on the backside of that low, and it will mean more snowfall overall across our area.
It is important to note, on this graphic above, that only a few of our counties (Athens, Coshocton, Guernsey, Hocking, Knox, Morgan, Morrow, Noble, Perry) would see the required 1″ or more of snow on the ground to be considered a “white Christmas”.
Bottom line, there is a chance some of us could see a white Christmas this year:
As you can see from the different forecast models, it is based off timing, and exact positioning of the low. As of now, there is a 100% chance it is going to be cold on Christmas day, and at minimum I think many if not most of us will at least see some flakes on Christmas day. I would not bet the farm on a white Christmas anywhere in Central Ohio as of now. It appears that whatever precip. we squeeze out Sunday into Sunday night/Monday early morning will not be enough. However, we will keep a close eye on the several pieces to this forecast puzzle that will move through this weekend…. stay tuned!
For the record…. (all stats since record keeping began in Columbus (1878 for most stats, snow depth 1948)
- Warmest Christmas: 1893, it was 64°
- Coldest Christmas: 1983, the high was 1° (record coldest high), and the low -12° (was coldest temp on record)
- The wettest Christmas: 2009 with 0.79″ of rain
- The snowiest Christmas was in 1890 with 7″ of snow falling on that day.
- The deepest snow cover on Christmas was in 1960 with 9″ on the ground Christmas Day.
If you ever have questions about snowfall, winter weather, climatology or any other weather questions, email me: email@example.com