Chance of a White Christmas in Illinois

I just heard “Let It Snow” on the radio and it reminded me that it’s time to do the annual post on …

What are the historical chances of a White Christmas?

We define a “white Christmas” as having at least an inch of snow on the ground on December 25. The map below shows the odds across the state. It should come as no surprise that the highest odds are in northern Illinois.  In general, the odds are about 40-60 percent in the northern third of Illinois, 20-40 percent in central Illinois, and 0-20 percent in southern Illinois.

There can be large differences between nearby sites. Snowfall is notoriously difficult to measure with blowing, drifting, and melting. Two nearby sites may have different results due to exposure to the sun and the wind as well as the dedication of the observer to report on Christmas Day.


What happened last year?

We had just a little bit of snow on the ground in parts of the northern half of Illinois on December 25, 2014 – hardly impressive. dec25-2014

What is the most snow on Christmas Day?

Here are the largest snow depths on Christmas Day (12/25) for selected locations around the state:

  • Chicago, 17 inches in 1951
  • Rockford, 14 inches in 1951 and 2000
  • Quad Cities, 12 inches in 1909
  • Peoria, 10 inches in 1909
  • Springfield, 10 inches in 1915
  • Champaign-Urbana, 9 inches in 1983
  • Carbondale, 9 inches in 2004

What are the odds this year?

What are the odds this year? They may be a little better than you think. While December has been incredibly mild so far, 10 degrees above average, that could change for short periods of time. Keep an eye out for developing storms as we get into Christmas week.

[An earlier version of this post had an interesting run from the GFS model showing a potential for snow around Christmas, but subsequent model runs did not support this. ]

2 Replies to “Chance of a White Christmas in Illinois”

  1. Hey Jim, I find it rather strange that the northern sliver of Ford County has a 40 percent chance of snow while DuPage County (70 miles north) has a 38 percent chance. I have a farm in Iroquois County and a home in Woodridge, IL and find that we almost always have a ton more snow than down in the Ford/Iroquois area. The 40 for Ford looks like an anomoly.

  2. It looks like the one in Ford County would be closer to 30-35 percent based on nearby stations. But as I mentioned in the blog, there may be some “local” differences due to exposure of the site. It could be more sheltered from the wind and maybe a few trees to the south provided a little bit of “shade”.

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