Much of US had a white Christmas in 2022. Will it happen again?

It was a snowy Christmas for much of the U.S. in 2022 amid extremely cold conditions. NOAA weighs in on whether this Christmas will be similar.
Snowy landscape shows a lawn full of snow.
Posted at 10:22 AM, Dec 14, 2023

As Christmas quickly approaches, many might be wondering — and some may be hoping — about the possibility of a white Christmas. 

Based on recent projections released by the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, the chances aren't so good for much of the U.S.

According to the 8-to-14-day projection released by the Climate Prediction Center, nearly the entire U.S. is expected to have above-average temperatures for the days surrounding Christmas. The Northern Plains are most likely to have unseasonably warm conditions. 

“It’s likely not going to look or feel much like Christmas this year,” said Scott Handel, a meteorologist for the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. “For most of the country, we’re predicting greater than a 50% chance of above normal temperatures.”

No region of the U.S. is expected to have cooler-than-average weather from Dec. 21-27, the Climate Prediction Center said. 

"Above-normal temperatures are favored for nearly the entire United States," said forecaster Ryan Bolt. "The strongest chances for above-normal temperatures, exceeding 80%, is across the Northern and Central Plains, upper and middle Mississippi Valley, and the Great Lakes."

@scrippsnews Will you see snow on Christmas where you live? NOAA's Climate Prediction Center breaks down the likelihood of snow and what regions of the U.S. could see potentially impactful weather hazards around the holidays. #snow #weather #Christmas ♬ original sound - Scripps News

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So what about the possibility of snow?

“Three areas that we’re looking at for the potential for heavy snow in or around Christmas day or the days leading up to or the days shortly following Christmas are parts of the Sierra Nevada, higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada in California. Also much of the Wasatch range in Utah and also much of the central Rockies in Colorado,” Handel said.

In a given year, most major U.S. cities’ chances of seeing a white Christmas are well below 50%, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA considers a Christmas to be white if there is at least one inch of snow on the ground.

In major U.S. cities like New York and Philadelphia, the chances stand at around 10%. Going up to Boston improves the chances to about 32%.

Major Midwest cities, like Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, have about a 40% chance of a white Christmas.

U.S. cities with the best chances of a white Christmas (100 largest by population):

1) St. Paul, Minnesota 76%

2) Minneapolis 74%

3) Madison, Wisconsin 65%

4) Spokane, Washington 60%

5) Buffalo, New York 55%

6) Milwaukee 47%

7) Cleveland 43%

8) Chicago 41%

9) Denver 40%

10) Toledo, Ohio 38%

All 10 of these cities had a white Christmas in 2022, with a reported snow depth of 20 inches in the Buffalo area and 15 inches in Spokane, according to NOAA.

Are you looking for a nearly guaranteed shot of having a white Christmas in the continental United States? Crested Butte, Colorado, has a 99% chance of a white Christmas, according to NOAA. The city is high up in the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 8,800 feet.

In 2022, extremely cold conditions provided a white Christmas for nearly the entire Midwest and interior Northeast. Even parts of Tennessee and North Carolina recorded an inch of snow depth on Christmas Day last year. 

When it comes to other weather hazards, rain and high winds could also be possible this year.

“Particularly from the central and southern California coasts, we’re looking for the potential for heavy rain, from Christmas day to several days after Christmas as well,” Handel said. He explained the Southwest, mainly Arizona, could also see some heavy rainfall. High winds are possible for Northern California and southern Oregon.

115 million Americans set for second-highest holiday travel since 2000
Heavy traffic heads out of Boston.

115 million Americans set for second-highest holiday travel since 2000

Expecting a record number of travelers this season, experts say to plan ahead, take precautions and have patience due to busy roads and airports.