WASHINGTON — Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? OK, let me be honest. After a few days of just a cold rain, I am ready for some snow. And right in time for Christmas.
So, what are the chances we can see a white Christmas around the WTOP listening area?
According to this map put together by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), there is about a 11 percent to 25 percent chance that there will be at least an inch of snow on the ground on Dec. 25. To get specific, there’s a 15 percent chance of that scenario for most of the WTOP listening area – unfortunately. The data map above is based on the historic probabilities measured throughout the last three decades — 1981/2010.
According to NCDC, “This dataset contains daily and monthly normal of temperatures, precipitation, snowfall, heating and cooling degree days, frost/freeze dates and growing degree days calculated from observations at approximately 9,800 station operated by NOAA’s National Weather Service.” Our local National Weather Service Office has done some incredible research in this category. They found that since 1888 there were only 19 occurrences with measurable snow on the ground already from a previous snow storm or measurable snow fell on Christmas Day. That on average is about once every six or seven years or 15 percent.
Well, yes, albeit a small one. The last time we had snow on Christmas Day was in 2002 when we received a whopping 0.2 inches at Reagan National Airport. Think about it this way: measureable snow (at least 0.1 inch of snow) has only fallen on the City of D.C. on Christmas Day 10 times in the past 130 years. Therefore, on average, snow falls on Christmas Day every 13 years or around 8 percent.
Click here for stats from the National Weather Service in Sterling. From the National Weather Service:
“In the past 20 years there have only been two Christmases that had snowfall: 1993 and 2002. Both years featured just a fraction of 1.” Furthermore, there were only two years in the past 40 that had 1.00″ or more of snow on the ground on Christmas. They were during the very cold December of 1989 when nearly 2.00″ of snow was on the ground from previous snowfall that month. More recently in 2009 we had 7.00″ still on the ground from the first of our major snowstorms that record setting winter. All 7.00″ of that snowpack on Christmas 2009 melted by the next morning (as temperatures rose into the mid-40s).
Of note, 18 years ago in 1993, in a span lasting less than 30 minutes in the evening, 0.2″ of snow fell with upwards of 1.00″ falling in the western suburbs. That quick bust of snow on Christmas night in 1993 caused severe travel problems. Much of the snow melted on contact with paved surfaces as temperatures were just above freezing at the time the snow feel. However, an arctic cold front swept in just after the snow ended. Any water remaining on roads and sidewalks from melted snow quickly flash froze into a thin layer of ice which caused gridlock and treacherous travel that night.
Precipitation of any sort (rain included) is much easier to come by of course. Fifty-one Christmases have had measurable precipitation. That translates to about a 36% probability of measurable precipitation or roughly on in every three years.”
So, with snow falling on Christmas Day averaging every 13 years, and having last seen snow on Christmas Day in 2002, we may have to wait until Christmas 2015.
Usually the typical Christmas Day consists of a morning low of 30 degrees with daytime highs rising into the mid-40s. History also tells us that it’s partly cloudy on Christmas Day.
There’s nothing in the works yet as we are waaaaaay too far out. But, as always, I will continue to keep an eye on it as we get closer to the 25th.