Every few years I like to revisit the topic of “perfect Christmas holiday weather.” As we head into this holiday season, with some areas worried about whether it will be a white or brown Christmas, I think it’s appropriate we revisit it again this year. As I went through the last couple of times I wrote about this topic, I found a rather interesting coincidence. Each year that we discuss this topic, December has begun warm and dry, with little snow cover across large parts of the southern Prairies… and what do we see this year? A warm start to December with below-average snowfall, just like last winter! With Christmas holidays fast approaching, the big question at this time of the year always turns to whether we’ll have perfect Christmas weather — but in reality, the real million-dollar question is, just what is perfect Christmas weather?
For those of you who have followed my articles, it’s probably no secret that my perfect Christmas weather is to have a nice big snowstorm that keeps everyone at home for a couple of days. This year, I’m a little torn about this idea: we are already stuck at home, so a big storm might be nice since we can’t go anywhere, but a big storm might also be the last straw for some people and could cause all sorts of problems and hardships. Maybe this year I will just wish for some light snow and cold enough temperatures so that we can get out and really enjoy what winter has to offer.
According to Environment Canada, perfect Christmas weather means there is already snow on the ground and at some point during Christmas Day there is measurable snowfall. So, what are the chances of this happening somewhere across the Prairies? Table 1 (above) shows the probability of having snow on the ground for Christmas along with having snow fall during the day. It breaks the data down into two periods, to try and show how our winters seem to be becoming warmer with less snow.
Looking at that data, it seems that if you want a white Christmas, then Winnipeg is your best bet. If you want Environment Canada’s version of a perfect Christmas, then Regina is your best bet.
If your version of a perfect Christmas is to have record-breaking warm or, heck, even cold temperatures, then have a look at Table 2 (at left), a list of the warmest, coldest and snowiest Christmas periods on record for two major centres in each of the three Prairie provinces. These records are based on the full set of data each of these cities has, which means they go back to the late 1800s. While some might argue these old records are not valid, I personally think they are and that they should be included.
If you are looking for a place to go on the Prairies to experience a really warm Christmas, then Calgary would be the place for you. While all of the other centres have seen some nice warm Christmases in the past, not one comes close to Calgary’s recorded highs. If you want a chance at seeing some really cold weather during this period, you could pick pretty much any place, as they have all seen Christmases colder than -35 C, although Winnipeg comes out the winner here, with a bone-chilling -47.8 C on Christmas Eve in 1879!
Interestingly, when you examine the precipitation records for these three days, you’ll notice the Christmas period has been a relatively dry, storm-free period — but there are a couple of exceptions. Winnipeg did see a heavy dump of 30.5 cm of snow on Boxing Day back in 1916, but the record for the biggest Christmas snowstorms has to go to Edmonton. Back in 1938, Edmonton recorded over 25 cm of snow on Christmas Eve, then a further 18 cm of snow on Christmas Day, for a total of 43 cm of snow!
Whatever weather you do end up with, I hope it is what you wanted; if not, then remember the season and try to make the best of it!