Yes, most of Alaska will have a white Christmas, except for Southeast

A landscape shot of a neighborhood park.
Anchorage recieved nearly 70 inches of snow from the last two months. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

Even with an El Niño climate pattern cycling warmer water up to Alaska, temperatures have stayed cool enough in Anchorage that the city has seen a lot of snowfall.

Anchorage already set a November snowfall record, and December has pushed it to its snowiest 45-day period on record.

That’s according to National Weather Service climate researchers Brian Brettschnieder and Aviva Braun, the climatologists in our special Ask Two Climatologists segment. 

Braun said the amount of snowfall that Anchorage has seen so far this winter is only about three inches shy of what the city typically sees for the entire season.


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This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Aviva Braun: We’ve had a very snowy winter already. We had 1.2 inches, which isn’t anything to really talk about, in October, but it’s helped us get to the point where we are now at 74.6 inches from October through December. We did get 39.3 over the month of November, and already this December, we’re at 34.1 inches. So in total, we’re looking at quite a bit of snow already on the ground for Anchorage, with an average snowfall per year of 77.9 inches. And we are so close to hitting that mark already in just three months time, two months really if you discount the 1.2 inches in October. So very, very snowy winter already. 

Wesley Early: So, this winter is tracking to be warmer than it usually is. I’m curious how that’s impacting precipitation statewide?

Brian Brettschneider: Well, statewide, we’re actually doing pretty well. I think it was one of the wettest falls on record statewide, and particularly in the southern part of the mainland, it was about 150% of normal. So pretty much everyone was pretty wet, especially from the Cook Inlet area, and then a little bit eastward. And we expect that. Well, there’s a long-term trend to get more precipitation, and that’s certainly bearing out this year. And it’s been a wet couple of years overall for much of the state.

WE: You know, we entered this winter as an El Niño was developing in the Pacific Northwest. You had mentioned how, a lot of times, an El Niño can be a thumb on the scale as to how the winter is going to turn out. How has it impacted this winter?

AB: Already, El Niño has brought us a more tropical track of our storm systems, which have brought in a lot of that moist air that has really been feeding into the snow totals that we have been seeing here in the Anchorage area. Even across mainland locations of Alaska, we have snow at all the points across the mainland. Even right now (Thursday), we have a blizzard warning out for the Bristol Bay area. So looking at some pretty decent snowfall across the area if we can if we continue on this track.

WE: And I’m wondering how the smallest impacts of heat in the winter can be the difference between whether a community is seeing rain, freezing rain or snow.

BB: So in an El Niño winter, you know, we look at what are the possible effects on temperatures and then also on precipitation. And there’s a much stronger signal for temperature. You know, we have temperature every day of the year, and if it’s above normal in one place, it’s probably above normal fairly nearby. That’s not always the case with precipitation. So you know, here in Southcentral and in the Interior, even with all the warming, it’s still cold enough, in most cases, for all that precipitation to be snow. And that’s why like say here in Anchorage and Fairbanks there has been an increase in snowfall over the long term in the core winter months of December through February, but a sharp reduction in snow in the shoulder seasons. Our future here in the mainland probably will look more like Juneau, where they used to be right on the edge of rain and snow pretty much all the time. And now they’re pretty much in the rain side of the continuum more times than not, and kind of everything has to go right for it to be snow. So that’s something that’s going to be in our future and the coming decades. 

WE: Christmas is on Monday. What are the odds that people across the state are going to be seeing a white Christmas this year?

AB: I think we can say fairly certainly that we have a white Christmas here in the Anchorage area, even across most of the mainland, Southcentral especially. The areas along the Aleutian Chain, however, it’s more likely that they would see some snow maybe at their peaks but not at sea level.

BB: And in Southeast Alaska, it’s probably not looking so hot in, say, Juneau. They currently have one inch of snow on the ground, but they have a lot of rain in the forecast the next few days. Historically, they have about a 50/50 chance, whereas here in Anchorage, it’s historically over 90% chance. And in Fairbanks, they’ve only had one Christmas on record since 1904 that was not a white Christmas, and even that day, they had a high temperature colder than -10. So it’s pretty reliable for most of the state that we’re going to have a white Christmas.

Now in the Lower 48, almost nobody is going to have a white Christmas. They’re doing a lot of hand wringing about how it’s going to be much above normal temperature. In fact, it could be the warmest December on record in the Lower 48 if the current trend and forecast for the rest of the month comes to fruition. So they’re all kind of looking longingly toward us, that we have the snow globe and they don’t.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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