Canada’s White Christmas Isn’t So White Anymore

The tradition of snowy white Christmases is threatened by climate changeEnjoying a white Christmas is an honored tradition for many all over the world, and nowhere  more than for those in Canada’s Great White North. But for most Canadians, the tradition of a white Christmas is becoming more a dream than a reality.

David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada studied weather records and snowfall trends collected across Canada between 1964 and 2009. What Phillips found was that the chances of having a white Christmas with more than  2 centimeters (.7 inches) of snow on the ground has decreased dramatically in the past few decades.

The second largest and second coldest country on earth, 85 percent of Canada will still be blanketed in snow, says Phillips. But in the countries southern tier, where most people live and celebrate Christmas, the chances of a decent snowfall has dropped by nearly a quarter since 1991.

“Most Canadians will see a green Christmas,” said Phillips. “Who would have thought in the Great White North, the land of ice and snow, that we would be denied something that we hold close to our hearts?”

“It’s about a feeling,” added Phillips, “it’s about the Christmas card look to a scene, it’s about sleigh bells and chestnuts roasting.”

In Calgary Alberta, the chances of a white Christmas has fallen most precipitously. Between 1964 and 1984, the city had a 74 percent chance of a decent snowfall by Christmas. But from 1991 to 2009 the probability of a white Christmas  fell to only 47 percent.

And even when the snow does fall, there is less of it. Goose Bay, Labrador, in northern Canada, still has a 100 percent chance of snow by Christmas, but instead of the average 25 inches of snow depth recorded between 1964 and 1982, only 13.7 inches on average blanketed the community on Christmas between 1991 and 2009.

Fewer white Christmases don’t necessarily put anyone in peril, but it could have an impact on Canada’s tourism industry and is a “bummer” for those attached to the idea of a pristine, white Christmas full of deep fresh snow.

“It’s an emotional thing,” says Phillips. “We’re the great White North, we are the land of ice and snow, and we are losing that reputation, because winters just aren’t what they used to be.”

But the changing winters in Canada may help the onset of climate change “resonate” with Canadians suggests Phillips.

“When climatologists talk about climate change and global warming and it sounds technical, but it hits home with white Christmases.”

Additional source:
Climatewire (subscription required)

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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