Odds for a “Brown Christmas” increasing?

72% Historical chances of a white Christmas in the metro

2006 last Christmas with just a trace of snow in the metro

19″ snow cover at MSP Airport on December 25th, 2010

.03″ GFS model forecast precipitation through December 15th (0Z run)

40 degrees GFS forecast high temp for Metro on December 13th

50% Current Weather Lab odds for a brown Christmas in the metro and southern Minnesota

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Brown lawn and dry birdbath at the weather lab today

Where’s winter?

Yes it sort of feels like winter today in Minnesota; it just doesn’t look like winter. My brown lawn at the weather lab in the west metro is begging for rain or snow.

Our historical or “climatological” odds for a white Christmas (at least 1″ of snow on the ground) in the metro are 72%.

The odds for Christmas white approach 100% as you move north from Brainerd and Virginia to Ely, Biwabik and Embarrass.

Chances for a white Christmas drop to about 60% in southwest Minnesota around Pipestone and Luverne.

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Here are some other Minnesota cities and the historical probability of a white Christmas:

-Brainerd: 97%

-Duluth Airport: 98%

-Grand Marais: 89%

-Hutchinson: 64%

-Mankato: 68%

-Morehead: 84%

-Ortonville: 70%

-Owatonna: 71%

-Pipestone: 66%

-Redwood Falls: 61%

-Rochester: 78%

-St. Cloud: 74%

-Worthington: 76%

Lake Wilson in southwest Minnesota has the lowest historical probability of a white Christmas of any Minnesota reporting location at 57%.

We’ve seen less than 1″ snow cover on 31 of 111 years in the Twin Cities dating back to 1899.

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Bug Island on Lake Minnetonka rests in 5″ of snow cover in December 2009.

Christmas 2011: Brown or white?

We’re about to close out the driest fall on record in the metro and much of southern Minnesota. The growing drought shows no signs of easing on the medium range forecast maps. Other than a minor dusting of snow Thursday and another chance along about December 10th, the maps look eerily quiet. No big “Domebuster” type storms in sight so far this year. Nothing more than “a flake an acre” between now and mid-December?

The maps can turn on a dime this time of year, but at this point it seems likely that we may get to December 15th without significant snow cover in much of Minnesota.

If that happens our chances for a brown Christmas will increase dramatically.

The last time you probably saw your lawn on Christmas Day in the metro was 2006 when a trace was recorded at MSP Airport. MSP Airport also recorded just a trace of snow in 2002 and 1997.

That translates into a brown Christmas about every 4 or 5 years in the past 14 years. We still may manage 1″ of snow between now and Christmas, but historically speaking we’re due for another brown Christmas in the metro.

The whitest Christmas ever in the metro was 20″ in 1983. Last year was #2 with 19″ on the ground at MSP on Christmas Day!

They say when in a drought, don’t forecast rain or snow. Looking at the maps, I’d put the odds of a brown Christmas this year in the metro at 50/50 right now. The weather maps may still gin up a storm, and bring us the gift of winter white for Christmas this year.

Personally, I’m hoping for at least a little snow between now and December 25th!


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