Veteran oddsmaker gives slim, but not impossible chance for White Christmas in Seattle
SEATTLE -- Getting snow on Christmas in mild-wintered Seattle is always a pretty heavy underdog, but a veteran oddsmaker has calculated just exactly how much of an underdog we are this year.
Jim Murphy went back and looked at historical data on December 25, and combined it with recent snowfall trends and a long-range extended forecast for late December and January to come up with probability percentages for major cities. He then converted them into betting odds in the same way you'd see a betting line listed for a sporting event, if betting on sports were legal in Washington (which it's not).
For Seattle -- turns out it's an average year. Murphy lists Seattle having a White Christmas (1" of new snow on the ground or 1" of observed snowfall) as a 9-to-1 underdog. Put another way, if you theoretically bet $100 on a White Christmas in Seattle and it'd hit, you'd get $1000 -- $900 plus your $100 back. On the other hand, you'd have to wager $1,250 to win $100 on a non-White Christmas. That's about on par, to a little bit better than an average year's chance. NOAA puts Seattle's odds at 5% in any given year.
But what I found interesting were some of his other cities: He gave Seattle identical 9-1 odds as New York City, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Portland.
Biggest Underdogs? The usual suspects: Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and Las Vegas all 90-1 underdogs. (Atlanta is intriguing -- in a given year, they're probably the best shot in the group to get 1" of snow)
Slight Underdogs: Chicago $100 to "win" $175 (denoted at +175 in betting lingo), Pittsburgh +175, Boston +190, St. Louis +225, Washington D.C. +350, and Baltimore +350.
You Pick 'Em: Denver and Detroit are even bets: Wager $110 to win $100 on either side. (That $10 offset is typical in actual betting as it's the house's cut on the take.)
Biggest Favorites? Salt Lake City -- wagering $225 to win $100 on a White Christmas (denoted -225 in betting lingo) and Minneapolis (-450). I'm surprised -- Minneapolis seems a pretty sure deal for just -450 odds. NOAA gives Minneapolis a 75% chance of a White Christmas in any given year and the European model shows a projected 10" of snow on the ground there on this Christmas.
The actual forecast for Seattle, now that Christmas is just a few days out, does appear to be dry but relatively chilly with temps in the mid-upper 30s. But if this were real, Seattle might be too much of an underdog now. Some of the later computer model projections have some moisture near the region on Christmas Eve. It's not a lot and it's a fairly recent trend, and temperatures still look like they'll make it above freezing. But there is probably a low-chance scenario that could play out to get 1" in Seattle and hope it lingers into Christmas. At least enough that I bet if Murphy were looking at things this morning, Seattle's line might move toward being a lesser underdog!