Forget a White Christmas. Will you get a White Halloween?

Maxim Petrichuk/Shutterstock.com

So many Halloween costumes are improved by a proper, snowy setting. Krampus. Wampa. Er, sexy snowman. But what are the chances your hometown will actually see powder on October 31?

Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist in Anchorage, has the answer: very slim. “Halloween is the least snowy winter holiday,” he says. In fact, of all the major U.S. weather stations with a decent amount of records, he says only two (outside Alaska) have at least a 50 percent likelihood of experiencing a “White Halloween”: Mount Washington, New Hampshire, and Stampede Pass, Washington. (Both are places not known for human habitation, let alone trick-or-treating.)

To hammer in how infrequently snow and our annual horrorfest mix, Brettschneider’s made a map of snow probabilities for October 31 using data from “first order” weather stations. (He chose stations that hold at least 20 years of Halloween records, although some have many more years, in some cases stretching back to the early 1900s.) The map shows that for near-ironclad odds of catching flakes in your candy sack, you pretty much need to head to Canada or Alaska:

(Map based on GHCN data, also available here)

Brettschneider, an inveterate weather mapper who also’s made a guide to the ultimate 70-degree road trip, shares these historical nuggets:

The most southerly “White Halloween” goes to Midland, Texas, when 0.1" of snow fell on October 31, 1991. Not to be outdone, parts of the Texas Panhandle had 6" of snow on that same date. Valdez, Alaska, holds the record for the most snow on Halloween (24.6" in 1999) and the Summit, Alaska, weather-service office has the record for greatest Halloween snow depth (29" in 1905).

For folks who are wondering what was up with that early-1990s Texas snow, a “perfect storm” in the Atlantic was affecting weather in the South by driving moisture up from the Gulf. Soon snow and ice were falling throughout the region, making for a strong blizzard that killed nearly two-dozen people.

Here are a few city-specific records for snow on Halloween. It’s always white in beautiful Barrow, Alaska:

  • New York, Central Park: 0 of 103 years. Despite a freakish and damaging late-October snow in 2011, it all appears to have melted by Halloween.
  • Boston, Logan Airport: 0 of 66 years
  • Chicago, O'Hare: 1 of 56 years
  • Denver, Stapleton Airport (now closed): 13 of 67 years
  • Amarillo,Texas: 2 out of 67 years
  • Fairbanks International Airport: 82 out of 85 Years
  • Anchorage International Airport: 33 out of 65 years
  • Barrow, Alaska: 91 out of 91 years

What about Hawaii, whose volcanic peaks get their fair share of snow and freezing fog? The situation is pretty much the same as with the Lower 48.​ “They are far more likely to see snow in February through April than in October,” says Brettschneider, “so while the summit records are rather incomplete, they are nearly certain to be in the Under 5% [probability] category.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Coronavirus

    The Post-Pandemic Urban Future Is Already Here

    The coronavirus crisis stands to dramatically reshape cities around the world. But the biggest revolutions in urban space may have begun before the pandemic.

  2. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

  3. Traffic-free Times Square in New York City
    Maps

    Mapping How Cities Are Reclaiming Street Space

    To help get essential workers around, cities are revising traffic patterns, suspending public transit fares, and making more room for bikes and pedestrians.

  4. Perspective

    Coronavirus Reveals Transit’s True Mission

    Now more than ever, public transportation is not just about ridership. Buses, trains, and subways make urban civilization possible.

  5. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

×