What are Washington, D.C.’s historical chances for a White Christmas?

Dreaming of a White Christmas in Washington, D.C.? Dream ten times and once it will become reality. Yes, ten percent- that’s the lowly chance of having at least one inch of snow on the ground at 7 a.m. Christmas morning in our nation’s capital.

If you’re willing to drive around the three-plus hours into the highlands of eastern West Virginia or western Maryland, the chances  increase to over 50 percent. So head on out to the ski areas around Canaan Valley (Davis, W. Va., nearest town) and Wisp (Oakland, Md. nearest town) to markedly improve your odds.

The National Climatic Data Center’s White Christmas map nicely illustrates the sharp gradient between minuscule White Christmas chances south and east of I-95 and considerably higher chances on the western slopes of the Appalachians.


Historic probability of a White Christmas across the U.S. (NOAA National Climatic Data Center)

Link: What are your chances for a white Christmas? (NOAA)

In past years, CWG has exhaustively reviewed Washington, D.C.’s White Christmas history. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll excerpt some of the key facts here…

  • There have been 13 official White Christmases in D.C. since the late 1800s.
  •  D.C.’s last White Christmas was in 2009, when there 7 inches of snow on the ground in morning (following the Snowpocalypse), but heavy rain washed most of it away by night.
  •  The 1960s were particularly prosperous for White Christmases, with 4 occurrences.

Thirteen years have had 1” or more snow on the ground Christmas morning. Dates with * markers saw accumulating snow on Christmas Eve, Christmas, or both. (Ian Livingston)
  • There have been 10 instances of measurable snow (or more than a trace) falling in D.C. on Christmas Day itself. This comes to a long-term average of roughly 8%.
  • The most snow to fall on Christmas Day was 5.4” in 1962. In two other instances, 1909 and 1969, storms dropped over 4” in the city.
  • 1969 was the last time D.C. got at least 1″ of snow on Christmas Day.
  •  D.C. has about a 46% chance of getting a dusting Christmas week, about a 20% chance of getting 1” or more Christmas week, about a 3% chance getting 1” of snow on Christmas, and about 1 in 50 shot of 4” or more on Christmas.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day snow accumulation for D.C. since 1884. The * marker indicates a year with data, but one not included in the modern record. (Ian Livingston)

For more on D.C.’s White Christmas history, read these posts:

How often does Washington, D.C. have a White Christmas?

Washington, D.C. Christmas weather history

What about Santa, the elves, and snow? Assessing white Christmas odds in Washington, D.C.

Tomorrow, CWG’s winter weather expert Wes Junker will look at the weather pattern for next week and offer his take on this year’s odds of a White Christmas.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Jason Samenow · December 16, 2013

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