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White Christmas? Really doesn't happen often for us | Bradon's Barometer

Harrisburg hasn't had new snow on the ground for Christmas since 2017. That was a trace.
Credit: WPMT FOX43

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Buh do da do.... I'm... dreaming... of a white... Christmas.

Turns out, really not that often for our area. While we had a huge Dec. 16 snow storm in 2020 that left some flakes on the ground toward the holiday, a true white Christmas brings either new snow depth on Christmas Eve or at least a little something on Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, our average high temperature for Christmas from 2014 to 2019 was just shy of 48 degrees. Hardly snow making material, wouldn't you say?

In fact, the last time Harrisburg had snow flakes for Christmas was in 2017, all but 0.2 inches — a literal trace. You have to go back to 2012 for 1 inch snow depth, but no new snow on the holiday. 2009 for 2 inch snow depth, but no new snow then either. 

Rewind 20 years and you get the last true white Christmas for Harrisburg. 8 inches of snow with a 34 degree high —  now that's what I'm talking about!

Credit: Climate Central
Overall chances of a white Christmas nationally.

It goes back decades, really. You'd have to pick the 1960s or 1970s for the decade with the most snowfall events, though they had two and three respectively. (Even with a 65 degree high in 1964 and 60 degree high in 1965.)

But, if you fall under the lazier definition of a white Christmas, simply being when there's some sort of measurable snowfall already sitting on the ground, your odds do improve. 

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Historically, one of the best places in the U.S. for a white Christmas is the...

Posted by US National Weather Service State College PA on Monday, December 13, 2021

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Harrisburg International Airport has a 17% chance each year of seeing a white Christmas. Your odds drastically improve in Lewistown, Mifflin County by 20%. 

It doesn't help of course that our average temperature for the traditional "Twelve Days of Christmas" is warming on average. In a warmer climate, more winter precipitation tends to fall as rain and ice rather than snow, a trend we've certainly seen in the last few years. And the winter season is hit harder by warmer temperatures than any other season.

Credit: WPMT FOX43
Temperatures have been warming in the holiday season.

We often fall in the "battle zone," as I like to call it, in a winter storm system. It's the area where type of precipitation changes, a line in the sand between snow and rain. Certainly makes forecasting a bit more interesting as well.

The Weather Smart Forecast doesn't hold much hope for a white Christmas in our area this year either. A high temperature in the 50s will do that to you. Still, don't let that stop you from bringing out the eggnog (responsibly) and arguing with your family members during the most wonderful time of the year!

May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed Happy New Year. See you all in 2022!

Until next time,

-Chief Meteorologist Bradon Long

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