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Since You Asked: A white Christmas in the Rogue Valley? Keep dreaming

In the Nov. 27 issue of the Mail Tribune, there was an article about Americans' obsession with a white Christmas. What's the probability of a white Christmas in the Rogue Valley? How do we compare with other areas in Oregon and Northern California?

— Al S., Medford

To paraphrase a former president of the United States, it depends on what your definition of "white Christmas" is, Al.

According to the meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Medford, measurable snow has fallen on Dec. 25 four times since the Weather Service began keeping official records here in 1911. Medford had snow on Christmas in 1954, 1965, 1988 and 2007, but there's never been more than seven-tenths of an inch of snow on Christmas day.

Statistically, that works out to about one white Christmas every 24 years — not exactly the best odds.

There have been a number of years when a trace of snow fell on Dec. 25, but that hardly counts when you want your neighborhood to look like a winter wonderland.

Medford's biggest-ever Christmas-time snow storm came on Dec. 24, 1916, when there were three inches on the ground. An inch of snow fell last year on Dec. 24, too.

If you live at a higher elevation, your chances of a white Christmas are somewhat better because the snow level often sinks to around 1,500 feet this time of year, just slightly above Medford.

Our local weather varies tremendously over the space of a few miles or a few hundred feet of elevation.

A few years back, there was a half-inch of mushy slush in Grants Pass (elevation about 1,000 feet) and more than a foot of snow at 1,500 feet, barely five or six miles away, as the crow flies.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.