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Holiday Forecast: Only a few guarantees for white Christmas in Canada

Sunday, December 22nd 2019, 3:25 pm - It's the question we're asked more than any other this time of year – will we see a white Christmas?

Even though Christmas is just a few more days away, we are beginning to confirm which locations in Canada will definitely see a white Christmas.

To have so many cities at risk of having a green Christmas is surprising given that most of Canada has been colder than normal so far this December, as indicated by the various shades of blue, green, and purple on the map below:


However, the snow cover is rather thin or non-existent for parts of the country, especially across the southern Prairies, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, large parts of Atlantic Canada, and the south coast of B.C.


In addition, a pattern reversal this week has allowed mild Pacific air to spread across the country, replacing the arctic air that dominated across central Canada for the past two weeks.


For most places where a white Christmas is routine, we can guarantee another white Christmas this year. That includes Nunavut, the Northwest Territories & Yukon, including Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Iqaluit. A white Christmas is also expected across the interior of central and northern B.C., central and northern Alberta (including Edmonton and Fort McMurray), central and northern Saskatchewan (including Saskatoon), most of Manitoba (including Winnipeg, most of northern Ontario (including Timmins and Thunder Bay) and the lake effect snow belt regions of central Ontario (including Muskoka), central and northern Quebec and Labrador.


Historically, a white Christmas is quite rare across the Lower Mainland, and this year will most likely not be an exception. However, an abundance of alpine snow has fallen this week with more to come over the next few days, which is finally some good news for local ski areas. At this point, it looks unlikely that Vancouver or Victoria will see a white Christmas, but head north up Vancouver Island and the odds increase, as a few hundred metres in elevation will make all the difference. We're also watching a weak front on Christmas Eve that could bring some wet snow over the higher terrain across the island.


While the past two weeks were frigid, the snow cover is rather thin across parts of the region. This week has brought much milder weather with many places rising above freezing for a couple of days (even some double digit temperatures for southern Alberta) and little-to-no additional snow is expected between now and Christmas. Therefore, if you currently have just a few centimetres of snow on the ground across southern parts of the region, you have a high risk to lose your snow before Christmas.

Calgary, however, is guaranteed a white Christmas, due to a snow top-up expected Sunday evening, but no such luck for the rest of the southern Prairies, except for Regina, whose snow cover is patchy but still features modest amounts.



At this point, white Christmas hopes have nearly vanished for most of the region (outside of the lake effect snow belt areas), including Windsor, Toronto, Hamilton, and Niagara. This region has seen frigid weather with some snow during the past couple of days, but much milder weather is on the way starting this weekend and continuing through Christmas. This will melt all of the snow across most of the region. However, the snow belt regions east and southeast of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay should be able to keep their snow through Christmas.

While a green Christmas is disappointing news for many, a milder pattern before Christmas is great news for travel and for last-minute shopping.


The Ottawa area finally has a solid snow cover, but we will have to closely monitor temperatures early next week. If temperatures overachieve, then the snow is at risk to melt by Christmas. Also, the snow depth decreases to the south and east and areas towards the St. Lawrence have a higher risk of losing their snow before the 25th. The Montreal area received several centimetres of snow last week, but that is probably not enough to survive milder weather early next week.



Most of this region (except for parts of northern New Brunswick, western Newfoundland and Labrador) had little-to-no snow on the ground as of the start of this week after record warmth and heavy rain over the weekend. However, a more wintry pattern this week has delivered snow to parts of the region, including Halifax, and a couple more systems will impact parts of the region during the days leading up to Christmas.

We are now very confident that St. John's will see a white Christmas, thanks to a storm tracking in for the midweek. Fredericton was set to receive a couple of centimetres of snow on Sunday evening, enough for a fighting chance for parts of the city. In Nova Scotia, areas away from the cost are also nearly guaranteed a white Christmas.

Be sure to check back here regularly for updates on your holiday forecast.

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