What Are the Odds of Snow on Thanksgiving in the United States?

Brian Donegan
Published: November 14, 2019

Thanksgiving can have a variety of weather, ranging from snow and cold to shorts and flip-flop weather.

While we normally hear the term "white Christmas" each year, have you ever considered the probability of a white Thanksgiving?

Dr. Brian Brettschneider, climatologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, crunched the numbers and produced the handy map below to illustrate those odds.

Thanksgiving is not on the same date every year, and the stats take this into account. The holiday always falls on the fourth Thursday of November.

Brettschneider uses the criteria of at least 1 inch of snow on the ground or measurable snow (0.1 inches or more) falling on that date for it to be considered a white Thanksgiving.

The criteria is a snow depth of 1 inch or greater on Thanksgiving, or measurable snow (0.1 inches or greater) on that date.
(Dr. Brian Brettschneider)

If you want to see snow on 90 to 100% of Thanksgivings, you should spend it in northern Canada. Much of inland Alaska will also suffice.

Fairbanks, Alaska, for example, had a white Thanksgiving each of the past 88 years through 2018.

(MORE: Does a Cold November Mean a Cold Winter Ahead?

The best odds of a white Thanksgiving in the Lower 48 states are 60 to 80% in far northern New England, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, far northwestern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota.

At the Marquette, Michigan, National Weather Service office, 45 of the last 57 Thanksgivings have met the white Thanksgiving criteria, for a 79% probability.

International Falls, Minnesota, had a white Thanksgiving 54 of the last 70 years, or 77% of the time. In Duluth, Minnesota, 51 of the last 70 Thanksgivings have met the criteria, for a probability of 73%.

In northern New England, Caribou, Maine, had a white Thanksgiving 53 of the last 78 years, or 68% of the time.

Most of the reporting stations in the Rocky Mountains have a 40 to 60% chance of a white Thanksgiving. These probabilities also extend into the adjacent Plains of Montana, North Dakota, central Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan.

(MORE: Winter 2019-20 Outlook

Don't Bet On It Here

If you aren't a fan of snow with your turkey, consider spending Thanksgiving along the West Coast, in the South or along the East Coast from New York City southward. These regions all have less than a 5% probability of a white Thanksgiving.

In New York City's Central Park, only four of the last 98 Thanksgivings have met the criteria for a white Thanksgiving – a probability of only 4%.

Washington, D.C.'s chances are even lower at just 3%, as only two of the last 72 years had a white Thanksgiving.

No, Miami and Los Angeles have never seen snow on Thanksgiving. However, Boston runs a 10% risk of a white Thanksgiving, as seven of the last 70 years met the criteria.

Thanksgiving Snow Cover the Last Five Years

In three of the past five years, over 20% of the contiguous U.S. had snow on the ground on Thanksgiving Day.

This animation shows snow cover in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day during the past five years (2014-18).
(NOAA)

Thanksgiving 2014 had the most widespread snow coverage in the past five years at 33.2%. Boosting the snow cover that year was Winter Storm Cato, which brought widespread snow to the Northeast the day before Thanksgiving.

The lowest snow coverage on Thanksgiving Day in the last five years was 2017 at just 8% across the Lower 48. Most of the snow cover was confined to the Rockies, Cascades and Sierra Nevada.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.