THE WHITE CHRISTMAS INDEX

At Nestpick, we make it our business to know what attracts people to certain cities around the globe, and weather almost certainly always comes into the equation. However, the climate is undoubtedly changing around the world, and even our team in Berlin has noticed the local impact as we haven’t witnessed a White Christmas in years. This prompted a question - are the snowy Decembers of our childhood a thing of the past, and if someone wanted a higher chance of a white Christmas in the future, which city should they be looking to live in?

Climate change prediction is an incredibly complicated science, so keeping this in mind, we set out to find a simple methodology that could help us compare December snowfall from the last decade, and see if it would also be possible to predict the likelihood of cities having the right atmospheric conditions for a white Christmas in the future. To begin, we selected a list of 40 cities in the Northern Hemisphere which are among the top winter tourist destinations with travellers. Then, we utilised local weather stations in each city to calculate the average number of December days with snowfall between 2008 - 2018, to see from a glance if the amount of snowfall really had changed in recent years.

We then based our predictions of potential snowfall in December 2050 off a climate change research paper from Jean-Francois Bastin, an ecologist at the University of Ghent. His study shows how 77% of future cities are very likely to experience a climate that is closer to that of another existing city than to their own current climate. Most notably by 2050, Stockholm’s climate will resemble Budapest, London to Barcelona, and Seattle to San Francisco. Using these predicted ‘city pairings’ we were then able to create a very rudimentary prediction of snowfall in 2050 by using climate data from the last decade. While our methodology is very simplistic, the results highlight a clear trend towards warmer climates in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that white Christmases are very likely to become a thing of the past.

“For those who remember clearly the excitement of snow leading up to Christmas, it feels that Decembers just aren’t as snowy as they used to be,” commented Omer Kucukdere at Nestpick. “While we’re not suggesting that our study is by any means an exhaustive analysis into future weather patterns or scientific climate predication, our simple approach still reveals an overall trend for warmer Decembers in the Northern Hemisphere. For future generations, this means that White Christmases may become something that exists only in Hollywood films and old photos. It’s hard to deny that our climate is changing when even our team can see it from the snow days of their childhood to now. We know that putting this small study out there might not make much of a difference, but anything we can do to make people think about this issue is important.”

The full table of results in alphabetical order (by country) and the methodology can be found below. Each column is filterable from highest to lowest.

Average Number of Days in December with Snowfall > 0.25cm
#CityCountry2009 - 20132014 - 20182050

The White Christmas Index shows the average number of December days with snowfall between 2009 - 2018, and aims to show a possible average number of snowfall days in December 2050, based off a climate change report by Bastin et. al (2019).

40 cities were selected for the study based on three criteria; being present in the Euromonitor top destinations report for 2018, locations in the Northern Hemisphere which are more likely to encounter snowfall, and those which have been included in the Bastin et. al research paper.

The final results are ordered alphabetically.

Snowfall Data:

  • The number of days in December where total snowfall was above 0.25cm was collected for all 40 cities for the years 2008-2018. The average number of days was then calculated for two time periods; between 2009 - 2013, and 2014 - 2018.
  • Sources: Local weather stations, WorldWeatherOnline.com, climate.weather.gc.ca, weather.gov.

2050 Snowfall Projections:

  • Using the research article “Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues” by Jean-Francois Bastin et al. (2019) which describes how the climate of current-day cities will match those with different climates by 2050, this index created simple projections of the likelihood of snowfall in roughly thirty years time. For instance, the report predicts that Amsterdam’s climate in 2050 will be analogous to the climate of Paris, London and Rotterdam today, so for the purpose of this study, Amsterdam’s 2050 snowfall projection is based off the average amount of December snowfall between 2008 - 2018 in Paris, London and Rotterdam.
  • By matching each city in the index to its predicted analogous climates for 2050, predications for 2050 December snowfall were then able to be calculated for the purpose of this study.
  • Source: Bastin JF, Clark E, Elliott T, Hart S, van den Hoogen J, et al. (2019) Correction: Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues. PLOS ONE 14(10): e0224120. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0224120