Less than two weeks from Christmas and with another arctic blast on the way people are thinking about winter weather. In particular, snow and ice in the Charlotte region. Of all the weather I have to forecast snow might be the one thing that people ask and talk about more than any other. I think this might have to do with the unique blend of northern transplants who grew up with snow and the local southern residents who feel like they rarely see it. Either way, this combination makes for a hot topic around snow time in the Charlotte region.
To start talking about snow, you have to know the history of snow in Charlotte. Which is pretty interesting indeed. Most people realize we don’t get a lot of snow here as our 30-year average is just 4.3”. Long term since records have been kept it is 5.6”. Now that’s not a lot, but a little-known fact is that since records began in 1878 in Charlotte, that’s 138 years now. We have NEVER had a year with ZERO snow! Shocking I know, but every single year since 1878 we have had at least a trace of snow in Charlotte. Even last year when it was a warm and dry winter we had over 3″ of snow. Not to mention just 11 of those 138 years was it just a trace every other year it was measurable snow. I should say a trace of snow is much higher than a trace of rain since we only measure snow to the nearest 0.10″ and rain we measure to the nearest 0.01″.
When does the majority of the snowfall you ask? I created a nice chart that shows every inch of snowfall in Charlotte over that 138-year time frame. I plotted how much snow has fallen all-time in each month that has record snowfall. October had had a trace before on Halloween 1887 the earliest on record, so I left that out. Then I plotted the percentages of annual snowfall by month. You can see below that 63% of all snowfall occurred in January and February, but March is no slouch and is very close to what falls in December.
These are the stuff of legend around these parts. The one that sticks out for me is a fairly recent one in which 2 feet of snow fell in parts of Charlotte and York County. It was the February 2004 storm that featured thunder snow and some of the heaviest snow depths ever around here. At the time I think the county only had two plows, most people were stuck in neighborhoods for days.
White Christmas in Charlotte.
Maybe the rarest of all snows in Charlotte is snow on Christmas day. Though luck for us we had the first White Christmas in 63 years back in 2010. I will never forget that because two days out I practically guaranteed it then sweated out the forecast. This was amazing to see the whole state have snow n the ground by Dec 26th that year.
This history of snow on Christmas is pretty short. It’s just super rare to see snow on Christmas only 2.9% of the year have we had measurable snow on Christmas or snow on the ground. Ironically enough March 25th actually averages more snow at 0.1″ than December 25th at just an average of a trace.