Longest Periods of Time With Less Than an Inch of Rain in New York City
A History of Mild December Temperatures in New York

A History of New York's First Snowfalls of the Winter



Since 1970 the average date of New York's first measurable snowfall has been December 14 (six days later than the 30-year period before that, 1940-1969).  It has occurred as early as Oct. 29 (in 2011) and as late as Jan. 29 (in 1973).  It has happened before Dec. 1 in seven years (including the winter of 2018-19) and occurred later than Jan. 1 fifteen times (including the winter of 2015-16).  When this first snow arrives, on average, it's accumulated two inches. 


In two out of five winters the first snowfall amounts to less than an inch; five had first snowfalls that measured just 0.1" (the last time was in 2010).  On the flip side, there have been nine winters with first snowfalls that accumulated more than four inches (most recently, the 10.5" snowstorm of Dec. 16-17, 2020, the surprise 6.4" snowstorm on Nov. 15, 2018, and a 4.6" snowfall on Dec. 9, 2017).  The greatest amount for a first snowfall was 15.2" on Dec. 11-12, 1960.


Chart - biggesst first snowfalls

The average date of the first snowfall of 1-inch+ occurs on Dec. 24, ten days after the first measurable snow (and eight days later than the years between 1940-1969).  It's happened as early as Oct. 29 (in 2012 when 2.9" fell) and as late as March 22 (in 1998 when 5.0 inches fell).  Ten winters didn't see their first one-inch snowfall until after Jan. 15.  The last time it occurred this late was during the winter of 2015-16, and it was a doozy, when 27.5" fell on 1/22 - New York's biggest snowfall of all time.




Finally, the first measurable snowfall of the 50 winters since 1970 was also the the first snowfall of an inch or more 27 times (most recently during the winters of 2019-20 and 2020-21).  Additionally, eight of the first snowfalls changed to rain; four of them occurred in consecutive winters, 1984-1987.  And seven of the first snowfalls began as rain before changing to snow (the most recent was the winter of 2019-20).

















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Ken K. in NJ

Hi, I recently found your blog via a link from an article recently in the NY Times. I've always been a fan of this sort of weather esoterica, so I'm really enjoying your write-ups.

Question, pertaining to the article above. NY City has already had 3 snows of 1 inch or greater. Is that some sort of record for so early in the season? It's got to be very unusual at the least.

Thanks, and keep up the great work!


Hi Ken, I'm very happy you found my sight! And, yes, this many snowfalls of 1-inch+ in December isn't very common here in NYC. The last time we had three was back in 2005, and there have been a handful of other Decembers since 1980 in which it's happened. The last time there were four such snowfalls of 1-inch or more was in 1963. Thanks very much for your message/question - much appreciated.


how often does a season's first measurable snowfall occur on the same day as the season's first reading of 32° or colder?


I assume you're asking because this fall's first temperature of 32 degrees or colder and the first snowfall were just a day apart. On average the first measurable snowfall occurs about four weeks after the first low of 32 or colder. However, there have been six years in which both occurred on the same date (going back to 1900): 1987, 1953, 1938, 1937, 1935 and 1902. You may also be interested in knowing that there have been five years in which the first snowfall occurred BEFORE the first low of 32 or colder: 2011, 1952, 1909, 1907 and 1906. And despite these events not occurring that frequently, note the clustering in the second half of the 1930s for cold/snow on the same day and the second half of the 1900s for the first snow falling before the first low of 32 or colder.

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