Christmas lantern light in night on snow

Photo: Thinkstock

The last time we looked at the topic of “perfect” Christmas weather, the first half of December saw record-warm temperatures across the Prairies, along with well-below-average snow cover. A couple of years later and we are seeing much the same thing, with record-warm temperatures across the western Prairies along with well-below-average snow cover over much of the southern Prairies. With Christmas 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. I know a big storm at this time of the year would cause all sorts of problems and hardships, but deep down inside, it’s the idea of being stuck at home for a few days, no pressure to go anywhere because you can’t, plenty of food available, family around you, and hopefully something new to play with — that just sounds perfect to me! Basically, a perfect time to be forced to sit back and just relax and get away from all the holiday bustle. But that’s my holiday weather wish and I am sure there are others out there who would prefer no snow and record warmth, or daytime highs right around 0 C with great big lazy snowflakes falling, or maybe even clear skies and frigid cold! All I know is, it takes all kinds to make the world go round and what is perfect for one person is not perfect for another.

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 (below) shows the probability of having snow on the ground for Christmas, along with that of having snowfall during the day. Interestingly, it breaks the data down into two 18-year periods (1964-82 and 1991-2009) to try and show how our winters seem to be becoming warmer with less snow. 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, Table 2 (below) is 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 that 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 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 of the major centres comes close to Calgary’s recorded highs. If you want a chance at seeing some really cold weather during this period, then 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 that 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 biggest Christmas snowstorms has to go to Edmonton. Back in 1938, Edmonton recorded over 25 cm of snow on Christmas Eve and 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!

Daniel Bezte is the weather columnist for the Manitoba Co-operator.

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