The history and science behind a White Christmas

You see it on Christmas cards and in holiday movies, everyone loves a white Christmas. But just how often do we experience snow for the big day?

Christmas is upon us and the big question: Will we have a white Christmas in South Central Kentucky? But, what exactly does it mean to have a white Christmas in meteorological terms and how often do we get a white Christmas here in South Central Kentucky?

According to the National Weather Service, to experience a TRUE white Christmas, at least one inch of snow must be on the ground on Christmas Day, whether it is new snow or snow that fell before Christmas. And, given the fact snow development relies on a perfect alignment of cold air and the right amount of moisture moving across South Central Kentucky, getting all these ingredients together around Christmas can be a challenge.
As a matter of fact, it happens ten percent of the time or less. That’s right, the vast majority of Christmases in the region are NOT white! Only one in ten ARE. That isn’t to say we don’t get at least an inch of snow on Dec. 25 from time to time. Back in 1945, four and a half inches of snow fell on Christmas Day! In 1963, there were a total of six inches of snow on the ground on Christmas Day.
If you’re a snow lover and you like analyzing numbers, think about this: since 2013, the most snow we’ve had on the ground was a trace, well shy of the one-inch mark. So, if you go by those numbers, we should be due for a white Christmas in the next few years. Statistically speaking, of course.
And as for why white Christmases are so rare for South Central Kentucky? It’s about location: being situated along the junction of the midwest and southeast means we’re far enough south to escape most of the wintry weather in December but just far enough north for a little snow to spill into the area right about the time Santa flies through the skies.
Getting the right combination of cold air and enough moisture can be a tricky process. Keep in mind, last year, we had plenty of cold air but we only had enough moisture to get a few flurries out of the clouds.