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What are the chances of a White Christmas in New Jersey?

NEW JERSEY – 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. 

We still need to wait before making precise snow predictions for the holidays, but what are the chances of having a so-called White Christmas in New Jersey?

Here is a rundown of things to know on the topic:

Snow is seen in a yard in Westfield, N.J. on Feb. 1, 2021.

When Does Winter Begin?

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.

Snow is seen in a yard in Westfield, N.J. on Feb. 1, 2021.

Snow is seen in a yard in Westfield, N.J. on Feb. 1, 2021.

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.

Fresh snow on cars, trees, front yards on a residential street of townhouses

A snowy street in Jersey City, N.J., Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.

How Rare is a White Christmas in New Jersey?

The National Weather Service released two images showing the history of a White Christmas over the past 70 years in Newark and Atlantic City:

Photo credit: National Weather Service

Photo credit: National Weather Service

  • 54 of them had no snow on the ground and no new snow.
  • 7 of them had 1 to 3 inches of snow depth.
  • 5 of them had over three inches of snow depth.
  • 4 of them had no snow on the ground, but had new snowfall.

Photo credit: National Weather Service

Photo credit: National Weather Service

  • 47 of them had no snow on the ground and no new snow.
  • 3 of them had no snow on the ground, but had new snowfall.
  • 2 of them had over three inches of snow depth.
  • 1 of them had 1 to 3 inches of snow depth.

According to the National Weather Service over the past 70 years, while the chances of a White Christmas in the Garden State is low, your chances are better up north than south.

(To view more locations around the country, click here.)

NEW JERSEY, USA – FEBRUARY 21: Children and people slide with sledges after snowfall during a sunny day at Hudson County Park, in New Jersey, United States on February 21, 2021. (Photo by Islam Dogru/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Could New Jersey Have a White Christmas This Year?

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, in the Northeast, snow showers are possible in the days leading up to Christmas, with temperatures trending colder.

In fact, they predict between Dec. 23-26, a mix of rain and snow is possible. Conditions will be chilly. Winter temperatures will be below normal, while precipitation and snowfall will be above normal.

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.)

A US map showing showing the historic probability of a White Christmas based on data from 1991–2020

The historic probability of a White Christmas; dataset: 1991–2020. (NOAA Image)

Could New York City Have a White Christmas This Year?

How about New York City? 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.

People with sleds on a snowy hill in Central Park

The aftermath of a snowstorm in Central Park in New York City. (FOX 5 NY File Photo/Arun Kristian Das)

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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