NEW YORK - Welcome to December! After a milder-than-average autumn so far, our weather thoughts now turn toward the upcoming winter and how much cold air and snow we could experience.
Here is a rundown of things to know on the topic.
When Does Winter Begin in 2022?
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, which is located at 23.5 degrees south of the equator. (For reference, the Tropic of Capricorn runs through Australia, Chile, southern Brazil, and northern South Africa.)
The Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice usually occurs on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22. This year, the first day of winter is Dec. 21.
To be very precise, winter arrives at the moment of the winter solstice, which will happen at 4:48 p.m. EST on Dec. 21, 2022.
So now to a looming question: Could we have a White Christmas this year?
First, we need to define the term.
What Is the Definition of White Christmas?
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. 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.
The aftermath of a snowstorm in Central Park in New York City. (FOX 5 NY File Photo/Arun Kristian Das)
Could NYC Have a White Christmas This Year?
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.
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.
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.
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)
When Was the Last White Christmas in NYC?
The last White Christmas in New York City was in 2009 when 2 inches of snow was recorded.
You then have to go back to 2002 when 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.
Do you remember experiencing a White Christmas?
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Record Snow in NYC
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.