NEW YORK - Welcome to December!
We need to wait a few weeks before making precise snow predictions for the holidays, but what are the chances of having a so-called White Christmas in New York City?
Here's everything you need to know
before Santa's big night. Use the links below to jump between sections:
- When does winter begin in 2023?
- What is the definition of a White Christmas?
- Could NYC have a White Christmas this year?
- When was the last White Christmas in NYC?
- What are some Christmas Day weather records?
- When was the last time it snowed in New York City?
Winter begins on the winter solstice, which is the shortest day and longest night of the year.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, located 23.5 degrees south of the equator. (For reference, the Tropic of Capricorn runs through Australia, Chile, southern Brazil, and northern South Africa.)
A woman steps on snow in a plastic box used to create blocks for a community-built igloo in Central Park the day after a snowstorm on Feb. 20, 2021, in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
The Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice usually occurs on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22. This year, the first day of winter is Thursday, Dec. 21.
To be very precise, winter arrives at the moment of the winter solstice, which will happen at 10:27 p.m. EST on Dec. 21, 2023.
In the United States, the National Weather Service defines a "White Christmas" as an inch or more of snow observed on the ground on Christmas morning.
Tommy Liberto, aka Mr. Christmas Tree, visiting from Bel Air, Maryland, sleds down a mountain covered in snow in Central Park on Dec. 19, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
So a dusting of snow remaining from earlier snowfall doesn't count. Yet an inch or more still on the ground on Dec. 25 from a prior storm meets the White Christmas standard.
Other countries and traditions may have different definitions. For example, some cultures consider snowfall on Christmas Eve to qualify as a White Christmas.
Well, snow lovers — don't get your hopes up.
On average, New York City receives 4.8 inches of snow in December. The first measurable snowfall typically takes place around Dec. 14.
Here is a U.S. map from NOAA showing the historic probability of a White Christmas based on data from 1991 to 2020. (To view a higher-resolution version, click here.)
The historic probability of a White Christmas; dataset: 1991–2020. (NOAA Image)
Parts of New Jersey and upstate New York have greater chances of seeing a White Christmas, so just because it may not happen in Manhattan — literally based on a measurement in Central Park — doesn't mean it couldn't happen elsewhere in the metropolitan area.
People walk through Brooklyn's Prospect Park a day after a storm brought heavy snow, freezing temperatures and high winds to the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Statistically, Central Park has only an 11% chance each year of having that happen. Brooklyn's chances are around 10%. Queens is at a 12% probability.
The last White Christmas in New York City was in 2009 when 2 inches of snow was recorded.
You need to rewind seven years in the past for the next time snowfall graced Dec. 25: In 2002, 5 inches of snow was recorded in Central Park.
Other prior White Christmases were in 1995 when cold temperatures kept snow on the ground from an earlier storm, 1983 and 1966.
The record Christmas Day snowfall for Central Park was 7 inches in 1909. The record snow depth on Christmas Day in Central Park was 8 inches in 1912.
In the last 152 years, there have been 25 instances of a White Christmas, which is an average of one in every six years.
In 2015, New York City saw a record-breaking 66-degree Christmas Day, while in 1980, it was -1!
The wettest day was back in 1945, when 1.26 inches of rain fell. The snowiest was in 1909 when 7 inches of snow fell.
On average, the high temperature is 42 degrees, with the low temperature at 32.
Since 1869, it's snowed 32 times, in contrast to 30 times when it's rained.
New York City has broken its snowless streak – and by a large margin.
As of Friday, it's been 656 days since the Big Apple picked up at least an inch of snow in a single calendar day. Central Park picked up 1.6 inches of snow back on Feb. 13, 2022.
This breaks the previous streak of 383 days that ended in March 1998.
In December, cities like New York City usually see their first measurable snowfall.
The record one-day snowfall for New York City is 26.9 inches, which fell during a storm in February 2006. A January 2016 storm dumped 26.8 inches in Central Park in one day.