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Odds of a White Christmas
 
Let It Snow
 
Snow accumulations in the twenty four hour period ending at 600 am CST on 12/26/2012. Talking about snow on Christmas in Arkansas is a very rare conversation, but it happened in 2012. Boy, did it ever!
In the picture: Snow accumulations in the twenty four hour period ending at 600 am CST on 12/26/2012.
 

More than ten inches of snow accumulated from west central into central and northeast sections of the state. In Little Rock (Pulaski County), nine inches of snow piled up officially on December 25th. This was the first Christmas snow that stuck (snow depth more than a trace) in more than 80 years! Another 1.3 inches fell early on the 26th (a total of 10.3 inches).

 
 
What about this year? The Arctic Oscillation (AO) index was positive in mid-December, which was a sign of milder days leading up to Christmas. Temperatures were above to well above normal through the 21st.
Temperatures at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) Airport (LZK) followed trends of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) index closely through November and early December, 2013.
In the picture: Temperatures at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) Airport (LZK) followed trends of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) index closely through November and early December, 2013.
 
More About the AO

The AO is all about pressure differences between the North Pole and the mid-latitudes (where we live). The AO is positive when the pressure to the north decreases, with higher than normal pressure closer to home. In winter, this causes westerlies in Canada to strengthen, with cold air not allowed to spill into the United States on a regular basis. When the AO goes negative, westerlies weaken and the flood gates open. Cold air flows more freely.

 
A storm system ("L") quickly intensified during the afternoon and evening of 12/21/2013, with snow and ice to the north/west of the system and severe weather to the south/east.
In the picture: A storm system ("L") quickly intensified during the afternoon and evening of 12/21/2013, with snow and ice to the north/west of the system and severe weather to the south/east.
 

Springlike air often precedes a round of thunderstorms in winter, and that is what happened this time. There was a heavy rain/severe weather event locally on the 20th/21st, with any snow well to the north/west (from the Texas panhandle to the upper Midwest and western Great Lakes).

While it turned colder on the 22nd, appreciable moisture departed. In the end, this was a year without snow during the holiday season. What else is new, right?

 
Snow on Christmas...A Rare Occurrence
 
Since snowfall records began in Little Rock (Pulaski County), there have been relatively few times when snow was seen on Christmas Day.

Looking at the entire period of record from 1875 to 2012, snow fell a dozen times (measurable four times and flurries or trace amounts the other eight times). In three other years (in 1876, 1963 and 2004), no snow fell, but there was measurable snow already on the ground.

Going by the averages, there is snow in the air or covering the ground on Christmas about once every nine to ten years. It is much more rare to have snow start on Christmas and accumulate (more than a trace on the ground) before the end of the day. It happened in 2012 (9.0 inches). Before that, it was 1926!

Odds of a white Christmas across the United States.
In the picture: Odds of a white Christmas across the United States.

 

Some Details About Past White Christmases
 

In 1887...1914...1918...1935...1939...1975 and 2009 snow fell with no accumulation.

In 1876...two inches of snow was on the ground from snowfall on Christmas Eve.

In 1879...rain began around 7 AM Christmas Eve...changing to a mix of sleet and snow during the afternoon. By night...the ground was covered with snow...which continued into Christmas morning.

In 1897...one inch of snow fell on Christmas Day between 450 am and 1245 pm. By 700 pm that night...only a trace of snow remained on the ground.

In 1913...snow started at midnight and continued until 1130 am Christmas Day. A total of one and one half (1.5) inches of snow fell...but during the afternoon the temperature rose to 40 degrees and most of it melted. By that evening only a trace of snow remained.

On Christmas Day in 1926...sleet began falling around 600 am and then changed to snow. The snow continued until 130 pm. Overall...there was 1.7 inches of sleet and 2.5 inches of snow. The snow stayed on the ground through the 28th. Ironically...there was a serious tornado outbreak in Arkansas on Thanksgiving that year.

 

 

On Christmas Eve in 1962...it snowed an inch and a half (1.5) during the day but melted quickly during the night...leaving only patches of snow on the ground Christmas morning...which melted that day.

In 1963...four inches of snow was on the ground Christmas Day...left over from a 9.8 inch snowfall on December 22.

In 1975...it snowed on Christmas afternoon. In many of the hills around the city up to two inches of snow accumulated. For those living in the lower elevations of the city...rain and snow was mixed and little of the snow remained on the ground. By the next day...most of the snow had melted. No snow qaccumulated at Little Rock.

In 1983...a total of 2 inches of snow fell earlier in the week and there was some ice on top of that. Due to melting and refreezing...there was about an inch of ice and snow left on the ground by Christmas Day...but none remained on the ground at Little Rock.

In 1990...2.4 inches of snow and sleet fell on December 22-23 and most of it remained on the ground through Christmas Day in some of the higher elevations of the metro area.

In 2000...there was some snow on the ground in northern and western Arkansas on Christmas Day. At Little Rock...a trace of sleet and freezing rain had accumulated on the ground. That day...one of the largest ice storms in recorded history overspread the state...shutting the state down through the remainder of the year. 

 
The satellite showed snow on the ground from Arkansas into the Ohio Valley on 12/27/2004. In 2004...snow fell in much of northern and central Arkansas on December 22. In Little Rock, roughly 3 inches of snow was measured...with 1 inch still on the ground on Christmas Day.
In the picture: The satellite showed snow on the ground from Arkansas into the Ohio Valley on 12/27/2004.
 

In 2009...light snow began a little before midnight on Christmas Eve. It ended around 300 am Christmas morning...with patches of snow on the ground through early morning.

In 2012...rain and freezing rain developed during the late morning and continued in the afternoon. There was also thunder at times. Precipitation changed to sleet and then snow during the evening, and there were still a few rumbles of thunder. By midnight, nine inches of snow was measured. 


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