Colorado State Researcher Releases 2001 Forecast for White Christmas

Dreams of fresh snow on Christmas morning may not materialize this year, according to calculations from the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University.

Nolan Doesken, assistant state climatologist and research associate with Colorado State’s department of atmospheric science, said it doesn’t snow very often on Christmas Eve or Christmas day at lower elevations, especially east of the mountains and over southeastern Colorado. When it does snow at Christmas, it tends to fall in small amounts, usually less than two inches. However, he said that since there may be snow in sight for Dec. 22, there could be a little snow left on the ground for a white Christmas.

"The chances of having old snow (snow that fell previously and has not yet melted) on the ground for Christmas is about 2-3 times greater than the chances of receiving fresh snow," Doesken said "Snow melts very slowly in late December, so if a snow does fall within the week before Christmas, it usually stays around."

If you really want snow for Christmas, Colorado’s mountains almost always have snow on the ground. For northern and central mountain areas exposed to northwesterly winds, snows on Christmas Eve or Christmas day are quite common according to Doesken.

"Last year many parts of Colorado enjoyed a beautiful quiet, calm, soft snowfall on Christmas day–mostly between half an inch and three inches–but it did not make travel hazardous," Doesken said. "The most memorable white Christmas along the Colorado Front Range came in 1982. A ferocious Christmas Eve blizzard brought two feet of snow to Denver and brought travel to a standstill. In 1983 snow was also fairly deep. That year a pre-Christmas coldwave had left temperatures continuously below zero for five days. Christmas 1999 felt like spring. There was no snow, bright sun, and temperatures at lower elevations along the Front Range climbed into the 60s."

Doesken compiled a chart analyzing snow on the ground and fresh snow for Dec. 24 and 25, 2001 for 19 test locations. The chart is based on a long-term history of the areas under all conditions. According to Doesken’s forecast, the area least likely to receive Christmas snowfall in Colorado this year is Colorado Springs. The most likely places to have at least one inch of snow on the ground for Christmas are Aspen, Berthoud Pass, Dillon and Steamboat Springs.

Chances for having One inch or more of fresh snow on Christmas

Location Dec. 24 Dec. 25
Alamosa 48% 12%
Aspen 98% 38%
Berthoud Pass 100% 67%
Boulder 43% 24%
Colorado Springs 25% 8%
Denver 46% 21%
Dillon 96% 29%
Durango 63% 24%
Estes Park 53% 19%
Fort Collins 43% 15%
Grand Junction 33% 13%
Greeley 34% 16%
Lamar 26% 14%
Pueblo 23% 12%
Salida 26% 12%
Sedgwick 37% 15%
Steamboat Springs 96% 45%
Telluride 94% 36%
Trinidad 29% 19%

* Prepared by Colorado Climate Center, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Colorado State University.