Historical odds of a white Christmas - WNEM TV 5

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Historical odds of a white Christmas

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It may be hard to believe, but the month of December is approaching fast. Thanksgiving has come and gone and now the focus has shifted to the December holidays celebrated around the country. 

At this time of year, opinions on snow vary, usually with plenty of passion on both sides. But a white Christmas might be something where a lot of folks can achieve a compromise. How long snow sticks around after December 25th or even New Years Day... well, that's where those opinions start to diverge once again. 

Of course, it's far too early to tell whether we'll see snow for Christmas Day 2017. That won't be clear for a few more weeks.

But we can look at the historical statistics provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and their National Centers for Environmental Information to see what our chances are based on history.

We can do that by using 1981-2010 Climate Normals, a three decade average of climatological variables. In this case, a white Christmas is our variable, and that is defined by NOAA as 1" of snow or greater on the ground on December 25th. 

Breaking Down Michigan's Chances

It's not a big surprise that the best odds for a white Christmas in the state of Michigan year after year are in the Upper Peninsula. To be more specific, the western U.P. where we have annual odds of 91% to 100%. This area includes places like Ironwood, the Keweenaw Peninsula. 

In the central and eastern Upper Peninsula, the chances get just a little bit lower, but are still fairly high. This area extends from Marquette, down to Iron Mountain and Escanaba, and off to the east near Sault Ste. Marie. 

It's also not a big surprise that the highest chances for a white Christmas in the Lower Peninsula are the lake-effect snow belts of northwest lower Michigan, around Traverse City, Cadillac, Houghton Lake and Gaylord. Those chances are also in the 76% to 90% range. 

Closer to the Lake Huron shoreline, in areas like Alpena, Oscoda, Tawas City, and Standish, chances drop to 61% to 75%. That zone also extends into the lake-effect snow areas of West Michigan, which includes cities such as Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Ludington. 

Near the Tri-Cities region, into the Thumb, and near the I-69 corridor counties, and southwestward towards Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, odds get closer and closer to 50/50. However, they lean more toward having a White Christmas than not, according to history. Chances in this area are around 51% to 60%. 

The lowest odds can be found in southeast Michigan the closer and closer you get to the Detroit area. For places like Pontiac, Ann Arbor, and Jackson, the chances fall to 41 to 50%. Not too far from that zone, near the Detroit area and parts of Lenawee, Monroe, and Wayne counties, we find the lowest chances in the state of Michigan where historically the chances of a white Christmas occurring are around 26% to 40% of the time. 

Again, it's far too early to tell if we'll have snow on Christmas Day just yet, but there does appear to be signs of a pattern change going into next week with a dip in the jet stream expected around midweek. We'll keep you posted on that and of course the snow chances as we get closer to Christmas. 

For a more specific look at these different zones, check out the map below! (Note: Image not visible on mobile)

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