Chances of a white Christmas in Minnesota

Image 1 of 2

Almost the only question I ever get in December is are we going to have a white Christmas? This time of year funny because even the most hardcore heat lover wants to see some snow on Christmas, and ONLY Christmas.  But for Minnesota, the chances vary considerably statewide.  The Boundary Waters Area is one of the few areas outside of the mountains in the U.S. where a white Christmas is almost a sure bet.  Much of the Arrowhead is the same.  But further south, conditions can vary widely from hardly ice covered ponds and brown ground, to more than 20 inches of snow. On any given year though, the location least likely to have a white Christmas is in southwest Minnesota, near the Minnesota River.  The average year gives this location a little over a 60% shot.

For the metro though, in 117 years we have had 34 considered to be a brown Christmas.  That’s roughly 72% of the time with white on the ground.  Having a white Christmas is defined as having 1 inch of snow on the ground the morning of Christmas Day.  The deepest snow cover on December 25th was in 1983 with a hefty 20 inches. That was just an inch more than our most recent really snow Christmas morning, with 2010 coming in with 19 inches of snow cover.  It was also a very cold Christmas in 1983, with the high temperature of 1°. It was not the coldest Christmas Day in the Twin Cities. That dubious award goes to 1996 with a "high" temperature of -9°. The warmest Christmas Day in the Twin Cities was 51 degrees in 1922. There was not a white Christmas that year. In fact, the Minneapolis Weather Bureau log book for that day states that the day felt "spring like."

One of the more bizarre weather conditions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day happened in 1982. Heavy rains accompanied with thunder and lightning hit the Twin Cities after dusk on the 24th and continued into the early morning hours of the 25th. The rain changed over to a slushy 1.4 inches of snow later in the morning of the 25th, but officially 1982 was a brown Christmas since the snow depth was measured at 6am and the change-over occurred after that. A similar event happened on Christmas Day last year with heavy rain, thunder and lighting and almost an inch of rain with some sleet thrown in the mix.

Weirdly enough, Christmas Day is typically fairly quiet.  The largest snowstorm to occur on the day was back in 1945 where 9.5 inches of snow fell with a 2-day total of nearly a foot.  That was by far the largest snowstorm in the Twin Cities on Christmas.  There was another 5-inch snow in 1950, but then we entered nearly 3 decades of fairly quiet Christmas holidays until 2009 brought a very fluffy 3.4” of snow to the city on Christmas Day.