41ºF

What are the odds of a White Christmas in southwest, central Virginia?

Historically, the odds are not in our favor for a White Christmas

Picture of snow with Christmas decor - Deborah Burchett
Picture of snow with Christmas decor - Deborah Burchett

ROANOKE, Va. – For some, we share Bing Crosby’s dream of a White Christmas, or we share the fantasy of looking out the window to snow falling like Kevin McAllister did at the end of Home Alone. The American Meteorological Society defines a ‘White Christmas’ as one inch of snow on the ground on Christmas Day.

The definition of a White Christmas
The definition of a White Christmas

For the purposes of this article, that’s the definition we’ll use too. According to that definition, the last White Christmas many (not all) of us had was back in 2009. The reality is that a White Christmas in southwest and central Virginia is not that common.

Historically, the odds are higher in the mountains and lower as you head farther east (which is not surprising). On average, it happens once every five years in the Highlands, once every six years in the New River Valley, once every eight years in the Roanoke Valley and Lynchburg and once every 17 years in Southside.

Odds of a White Christmas based off historical data
Odds of a White Christmas based off historical data

As you would expect, the odds increase the farther north you go. If traveling weren’t discouraged this year, we’d recommend going to parts of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, upstate New York, Michigan or Wisconsin.

White Christmas odds across the eastern US
White Christmas odds across the eastern US

With it being three weeks away from Christmas, any “forecast” is going to be highly subject to change. Any reliable forecast tool doesn’t even go out that far. The pattern the week before Christmas suggests the North Atlantic Oscillation will be in a weak negative phase.

Phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation as of 12/4/2020
Phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation as of 12/4/2020 (Climate Prediction Center - NOAA)

In Layman’s terms, a negative phase of this NAO tends to lead to more frequent cold snaps in the eastern U.S. If we can keep that around, our chances of a White Christmas could go up slightly.

By this time next week, we’ll have more forecast data accessible and outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center to assist us in our prediction of a white or green Christmas.


About the Author: