Where’s Winter?

As Thanksgiving dinner ended, the talk turned to the weather. Everyone was wondering how often North Dakota has snow on Thanksgiving and when we will finally see some of the frozen flakes.

A white Thanksgiving is defined in this graphic as having snowpack of 1” or greater or measurable snowfall on that day. The historical probability of a white Thanksgiving for Canada and the United States is shown in the map below.

Probability of a white Thanksgiving.  Courtesy of Brian Brettschneider
Probability of a white Thanksgiving. Courtesy of Brian Brettschneider

North Dakota has a white Thanksgiving about 60% of the time. Other locations around the lower 48 states that typically see snow on Thanksgiving are New England, the Rockies and the Great Lakes. They are also the only regions that had a white Thanksgiving this year. However, most of the continental United States doesn’t see substantial snow pack until later in the winter.

Thanksgiving snow cover.  Courtesy of NOAA
Thanksgiving snow cover. Courtesy of NOAA

The first half of November had almost no snow cover for most of the continental United States. As of the halfway through November only about half of a percent of land was covered by snow. This is the least amount of snow on the ground since NOAA started compiling the data in 2003. The old record least snowfall by November 16th was 2007 when there was 2.46% of land covered by snow. On average approximately 13% of the lower 48 states have snow cover.

Average vs actual snow cover for mid-November.  Courtesy of NOAA
Average vs actual snow cover for mid-November. Courtesy of NOAA

It does look like winter has started to show up over the last 10 days. The end of last week brought snow to the northern plains and the northeast. The U.S. snow cover has increased to about 16.5% as of November 26. This upcoming week also has more snow in store for much of North Dakota, with highest totals in the western and central part of the state where a winter storm warning has been issued for tonight through Wednesday. It looks like it will finally start to look like winter.

Written by: Jonathan Rosencrans, an Atmospheric Science student at the University of North Dakota

Sources:
https://weather.com/news/weather/news/us-snow-cover-least-in-early-november-2016
http://www.nnvl.noaa.gov/MediaDetail2.php?MediaID=1957&MediaTypeID=1
https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/snow-and-ice/snow-cover/us/20161120-20161126
https://weather.com/holiday/thanksgiving/news/white-thanksgiving-snow-cold-united-states