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Dec
20

The Snow Cover of Christmas Past

By · December 20, 2010 at 1:40 pm
The following number crunching was prepared by the Indianapolis National Weather Service.  Click here to be redirected to their original web page.

There are several ways to define a White Christmas. For the purposes of our historical look back, we’ll include a White Christmas as any day that has either at least a trace of snow on the ground, or experiences at least a trace of snow falling that day. In more general terms, we’ll define a White Christmas as any Christmas day that Indianapolis sees snow.

So what is the chance of at least a trace of snow falling at Indianapolis on Christmas day? Well, snowfall records on Christmas day have been kept in the Indianapolis area since 1871. And in that 138 year period of record, a trace of snow (or more) has fallen 62 times. This could be equated to a 45% chance of at least a trace of snow falling on Christmas Day.

Our other possibility for a White Christmas would be if there was at least a trace of snow already on the ground. This could be old snow from a week ago, or just the day before. Snow depth records don’t go quite as far back, and these were started in 1896. And in that 113 year span, there has been at least a trace of snow on the ground on Christmas Day a total of 60 times. This could be equated to a 53% chance of at least a trace of snow on the ground on Christmas Day.  The last Christmas that saw snow on the ground in Indianapolis was in 2004, just a few days after a major snow storm produced 1 to 2 feet of snow over central Indiana. Snow did fall on Christmas Day 2005, 2006 and 2009, but due to temperatures in the 30s and the snow mixing with rain, none of it stayed on the ground.

With both of our possibilities for a White Christmas explored, what then is our final chance? What would our probability be of having either a Trace or more of snow falling, or a Trace or more already on the ground? Since 1871, this has happened in a total of 97 times, where either the snow has fallen or already been on the ground. This gives us an overall probability of 70%! Which means that 7 out of every 10 years, on average, will see either some snow falling or some snow already on the ground for Christmas Day.

So if a White Christmas is your dream, then you’ll probably take heart in these numbers. Much more often than not, there will be at least a few flakes around to greet us come Christmas Day!

 
Here are a few snow extremes from Christmas Day:

 

Greatest Snowfall on Christmas Day
Greatest Snow Depth on Christmas Day
5.9” in 1909
9” in 2004
4.4” in 1926
7” in 2002
3.3” in 1890
7” in 1909
2.6” in 2005
6” in 1995
2.4” in 1935
6” in 1935

 

  
And a few temperature and precipitation extremes as well:

 

Warmest Max Temp
Coldest Max Temp
Warmest Min Temp
Coldest Min Temp
Most Precipitation
64 in 1893
-4 in 1983
55 in 1877
-15 in 1983
1.36 in 2005
63 in 1982
7 in 1985
50 in 1889
-5 in 2000, 1878
1.14 in 1957
63 in 1889
10 in 1924
45 in 1982
-4 in 1935, 1924
0.98 in 1982
59 in 1877
13 in 1884
44 in 1888
-3 in 2004, 1980
0.72 in 2006
58 in 1973,1932,1891
14 in 1980, 1902
42 in 1940, 1936, 1895, 1891
-2 in 1872
0.61 in 1926

 

 Data prepared by the Indianapolis WFO Climate Team

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