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White Christmas

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A white Christmas refers to a Christmas morning or Christmas Eve with snow falling from the sky. This phenomenon is far more common in some countries than in others and is generally more common in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere. For example, in the United States, snow is seldom experienced at Christmas except in the mid or northern regions and the mountains; but most parts of Canada except for the British Columbia coast and southern interior valleys, southern Alberta, southern Ontario and parts of the Maritimes stand an excellent chance of experiencing a white Christmas. The same goes for the countries in northern Europe, such as ones in Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland.

Due to oceanic climate, the further west a country is in Europe, the lower the probability that it will have a white Christmas. For example, in southern France a white Christmas is very rare, while in Bucharest, Romania, which is at a similar latitude, it is much more likely. Northern Italy and the mountain regions of central-south Italy may also have a white Christmas. In cities such as Turin, Milan or Bologna a Christmas with falling snow or snow on the ground is not a rarity.

In the United Kingdom, white Christmases were more common from the 1550s to the 1850s, during the Little Ice Age. In modern times, for the purposes of betting, a Christmas is considered "white" if a single snow flake is observed falling onto the roof of the London Weather Centre in the 24 hours of 25 December,[1] even without a perceivable quantity of snow.

In Ireland, the prospect of early winter snow is always remote due to the country's mild and wet climate. Bookmakers offer odds every year for a "white Christmas", which is officially snow being recorded at 09:00 local time on Christmas Day, and recorded at either Dublin Airport, Belfast International Airport or Cork Airport (bets are offered for each airport). Snow is most common in the north, and as such Belfast usually has better odds than Dublin, and considerably better odds than Cork, which is at the extreme south of the country. Ireland's last "official" white Christmas was in 2004.[2]

Some of the least-likely white Christmases that have happened include the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm, which brought the first white Christmas in fifty years to New Orleans and caused the first recorded white Christmas to Houston, Texas. The 2004 storm also brought the first measurable snow of any kind since 1895 to Brownsville, Texas, and its twin city of Matamoros, Mexico. The Florida winter storm of 1989 also occurred immediately before Christmas causing a white Christmas for cities like Pensacola and Jacksonville. The same storm buried Wilmington, North Carolina and the rest of Southeastern North Carolina under fifteen inches of snow; even small amounts of snowfall are rare in the area.

In the United States the notion of a white Christmas is often associated in the American popular consciousness with a Christmas celebration that includes traditional observances in the company of friends and family. White Christmas is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting.

White Christmases in Canada

The Meteorological Service of Canada compiled a list of the probability of a white Christmas in selected Canadian cities:[3]

City Probability
Quebec City100%
St. John's65%

2006 saw some of the warmest weather on record, with such places as Quebec City experiencing their first green Christmas in recorded history.[4]

In 2008, Canada experienced the first nation-wide white Christmas in thirty-seven years, as a series of pre-Christmas storms hit the nation, including the normally rainy BC Pacific coast.

White Christmases in the United States

According to the United States' National Climatic Data Center, basing numbers upon 1988-2005 data and stations with at least twenty-five years of data, the probability of a white Christmas (one inch of snow on the ground) at selected cities is as follows:[5]

Providence, Rhode Island37%
Charleston, South Carolina3%
Rapid City, South Dakota47%
Nashville, Tennessee13%
Amarillo, Texas7%
Dallas, Texas8%
Salt Lake City, Utah53%
Richmond, Virginia7%
Seattle, Washington8%
Spokane, Washington70%
Charleston, West Virginia30%
Huntington, West Virginia23%
Milwaukee, Wisconsin60%
Casper, Wyoming47%

According to research by CDIAC meteorologist Dale Kaiser, the United States during the second half of the 20th century experienced declining frequencies of White Christmases, especially in the northeastern region.[6]

White Christmases in the United Kingdom

From 1950 to 2006, the percentage of years with a white Christmas in the UK was as follows:[7]

Location Percentage
London 6%
Birmingham 20%
Aberporth 9%
Glasgow 19%
Aberdeen 26%
Belfast 22%
Lerwick 38% (since 1957)
Bradford 14% (since 1971)
St Mawgan 10% (since 1957)

Christmas 2009 was a white Christmas in Britain, with thick lying snow which easterly winds had brought over the previous week. Travel over much of Britain was badly affected by ice and snow on roads, and made more slippery by partial daytime thaw followed by overnight refreezing.

Southern Hemisphere

Due to the fact that Christmas occurs during the southern summer, white Christmases are especially rare events in the Southern hemisphere, apart from Antarctica which is generally uninhabited. In 2006, a snowstorm hit the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales and Victoria, arriving on Christmas Morning and bringing nearly one foot of snow in higher areas[8]. This was an especially rare event because it occurred during Australia's typically warm summer. A white Christmas in the southern hemisphere (specifically those close to Antarctica) is approximately equivalent to having snow in the northern hemisphere on June 25, and in some ways is even less likely because the Northern Hemisphere has population centers farther fro the equator than does the Southern Hemisphere.


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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at White Christmas. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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