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December 2011

Why 2011, Not 1983, Should be Crowned as New York's Wettest Year



When 1.16" of rain fell in Central Park on Nov. 22, 2011 it brought the City's total precipitation for the year to 67.88" (the year ended up receiving 72.81").  This pushed 2011 past 1972 as the wettest year on record (which had 67.03").  However, local meteorologists have insisted on reporting 1983 as New York's wettest year.  And although the amount reported for that year is significantly more than what was measured in 2011, there is a very good reason for disqualifying 1983. 


For some reason the National Weather Service office for New York has chosen to ignore the fact that 1983's total of 80.56" was invalidated after it was discovered that, beginning in May, Central Park's rain gauge was broken.  According to Alan Rezek, chief of the Eastern Division's office back then, a faulty weld had been allowing extra water to seep in to be measured in addition to rain entering the gauge's calibrated opening.  Although he said New York's rainfall would be adjusted I've never come across a revised figure.  (The Local Climatological Data Reports for New York City leave the months of 1983 blank for precipitation and indicates the reason for the omission.)     




So, congratulations 2011, the record is yours!  (And 1983 is more like the Barry Bonds of rainfall records.)


When the Flakes Fly: Snow in New York City



On average, New York's snow season is three months long, beginning around Dec. 15 and lasting until March 16 (based on the average day of the first and last measurable snowfall in Central Park).  It's been as long as four-and-a-half months, which occurred in the winter of 1990, and as short as thirteen days, which happened in the winter of 2002, when the first and last snowfalls were on Jan. 7 and Jan 19, respectively.  Here are some more facts about snow in New York (based on the period 1970-2020): 


  • The first snowfall of the season averages about two inches, but it's been as much as 10.9 inches (Dec. 19, 2009 and 10.4" on Dec. 16-17, 2021).  However, 40% of first snowfalls have been less than one inch.
  • Five winters have had their first snowfall occur on Dec. 5.  The earliest was in 2011 when it happened on Oct. 29; the latest on Jan. 20 in the winter of 2000.  (Latest of all time was Jan. 24 in the winter of 1973).



  • The last measurable snowfall of the winter averages a little over three inches.  The biggest last snow was 20.9" on Feb. 26-27, 2010.  One-third of New York's winters have had final snowfalls of less than one inch.
  • Six winters had their last snowfalls in January, while another five were in April.  The earliest last snowfall of any winter was on Jan. 18, 2020 (2.1"  fell); the latest occurred on April 19, 1983 (0.8").  
  • A typical winter has six snowfalls of an inch or more.  The most such snowfalls occurred in the winter of 1996 when there were fourteen (the winters of 1994 and 2015 each had thirteen).  In five winters (most recently, the winter of 2019-20), an inch or more of snow fell just once.



  • In addition to the six snowfalls of an inch or more that New York experiences in a typical winter, it also receives, on average, three or four snowfalls that measure less than one inch.  The winter of 1984 had the most such "nuisance" snowfalls - eight.
  • The most consecutive days with measurable snowfall is five, and it happened recently, from Feb. 28 to March 4, 2019: 0.1" fell on 2/28; 1.4" on 3/1; 4.0" on 3/2; 3.0" on 3/3; and 2.0" on 3/4 (10.5" in total).   There have been three instances of four days in a row:  Jan. 27-30, 1986 (2.2" in total), Jan. 25-28, 2007 (2.1") and Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2021 (17.4").