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Majority of Illinois Christmases not white

Odds of there being snow on the ground just 20 to 40 percent in Central Illinois

Published: Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012 5:01 a.m. CDT

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The winter storm that swept across Illinois on Thursday with promises of inches of snow being left in its wake had many now-disappointed individuals dreaming of a white Christmas.

Just what are the chances of a white Christmas in Illinois?

Historically, the highest odds are in northern Illinois, according to State Climatologist Jim Angel at the Illinois State Water Survey.

In general, the odds of a white Christmas are about 40 to 60 percent in the northern third of Illinois, 20 to 40 percent in central Illinois, and 0 to 20 percent in southern Illinois.

The Christmas Day with the most snow on the ground in recorded history in Illinois was 1951. Aurora had an incredible 31 inches piled up that day from 12 days of nearly non-stop snow and temperatures below freezing.

In the U.S., the odds of a white Christmas are high (over 80 percent) in the Rocky Mountains, the upper Midwest, and the Northeast. However, a white Christmas is rarely, if ever, seen in much of the southern half of the U.S. or along the West Coast.

“This year we are off to a slow start to the winter snow season in Illinois, thanks to December being much warmer and drier than normal,” Angel said.

“The statewide average temperature is almost 10 degrees above normal, with very few places reporting any snow. However, this is Illinois and things can change in a hurry, so I would not rule out a white Christmas just yet.”

The Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a division of the Prairie Research Institute, is the primary agency in Illinois concerned with water and atmospheric resources. 

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