White Christmas in Florida? It’s never happened

Published on December 22, 2023 at 9:30 am

Floridians may not be wearing mittens and scarfs this Christmas. A frontal system moving through will increase chances for showers and thunderstorms on Sunday and Monday for much of the state.

While the chances for snow in Florida this year remain slim, residents are preparing for a different kind of holiday cheer. In the absence of snowflakes, reminisce one of Florida’s rarest sights.

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Snow in Florida? When?

The last time Florida saw snow was Jan. 3, 2018. Tallahassee International Airport recorded a 10th of an inch. This was the first official measurable snowfall in the capital since December of 1989, according to the National Weather Service.

It has never snowed on Christmas in Florida, though the National Weather Service in Melbourne confirmed sleet in Brevard County on Christmas Day last year.

What has to happen for it to snow?

Snow flurries, or a light snowfall of a short duration, are more likely, but are not measurable.

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The conditions for snow are fairly simple. A source of moisture and low temperatures is needed, but in Florida, usually the moisture moves out before the cold air arrives. The state’s low elevation and geographic location make it less susceptible to prolonged periods of cold air.

Snow setting records in Florida

Last winter, Florida was exceptionally cold, but no snow was produced. Tallahassee’s temperature high was 34 on Christmas Day.

“We had four consecutive nights of hard freeze,” NWS Meteorologist Mark Wool said. “So, lots of people that had susceptible outdoor plants, like banana trees, were just killed. That was a big, big deal.

The most notable snowfall in Florida occurred in winter of 1977. On Jan. 18, 1977, snow reached as far south as the Bahamas in Freeport, marking the first snowfall reported in South Florida, according to the National Weather Service.

A strong Arctic cold front moved rapidly down the Florida peninsula, settled over the lower Mississippi Valley and pumped cold air into Florida. At the same time, a band of clouds followed the front, producing precipitation over the state.

Every reporting station in North and Central Florida recorded at least a trace of snow that day. The official reporting station in Miami, Miami International Airport, did not observe snowfall, though there are many eyewitness accounts.

History has shown that snow in Florida is rare, but still possible when paired with the right conditions. While Floridan’s may not wake up to a winter wonderland every year, the occasion is never not possible.

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