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In a Rut: Temperatures Stuck in the 30s



This post was inspired by the first four days of December 2019, all which reported highs and lows in the 30s.  The last time there was a streak of this length was in January 1998, when there was one of five days.  Although days "stuck in the 30s" aren't rare, as a typical year sees a half dozen of them, strings of three days or longer happen infrequently, about once very five years.  Not surprisingly, nine out of ten of these days have occurred from December thru March, with December having the most. (They've occurred as early as Oct. 26 and as late as April 11).


Chart - days in 30s by month


More than half of these days have reported measurable precipitation (57% to be exact); one in four have reported measurable snow.  Since many of these days have temperatures around freezing (two-thirds have a reading of 32° or colder for at least part of the day) the type of precipitation that falls is a mixed bag (i.e., rain, freezing rain, sleet and wet snow).  Often the type of snow that falls doesn't readily accumulate on paved surfaces if the temperature is above freezing.  And although temperatures in the 30s are far from frigid, the fact that they're often accompanied by overcast skies or precipitation makes these days feel raw and colder than the air temperature. 


Snow and rain


The most precipitation to fall on one of these "stuck" days was 2.03" on March 29, 1984 (high/low of 36°/34°); 1.8" of the precipitation was snow.  Additionally, there have been four other storms that produced two+ inches of liquid precipitation that crossed over to other days - in Jan. 1987, March 1967, Dec. 1930 and Dec. 1914 (all days were in the 30s).  The biggest of them all produced 3.49" of precipitation and lasted three days during the first week of March 1967; two inches of snow fell on the first day of the storm. 


Speaking of snow, the most to fall on a day with temperatures in the 30s for its entirety was ten inches on Feb. 10, 2010 (high/low was 34°/30°).  And 11.8" fell from a storm that crossed over into a second day on March 21-22, 1956.  In addition to these snowfalls there have been nine others that dropped six to ten inches (most recently on March 21, 2018 when 8.2" fell on a day in which the high/low was 39°/31°). 


Shoveling slust


In the years since 1900, the longest streak of days stuck in the 30s is five, which has happened three times: in Jan. 1998, Dec. 1970 and in Dec. 1914.  The most days in one winter was 20, which occurred in the winter of 1997-98.  Every winter except one, 1924, has had two or more days stuck in the 30s. (The winter of 1924 had one day.)  Finally, the most in one month is eight, which has happened twice - in January 1987 and January 1998.  (December 2019 had seven.)


Chart - stuck in the 30s

Chart - stuck in 30s by winter


If this analysis leaves you cold, I also posted one last year about days stuck in the 70s.


Stuck in a rut




Comparing Central Park's Weather to That of New York's Three Major Airports

Central-park-28-weather-stationNew York City's official reporting site for weather conditions is situated in Central Park, but LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports also collect data, as well as Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey (the airports are 7, 16 and 27 miles away from Central Park, respectively).  Central Park is one of the few reporting sites in the US not located at an airport.  Although the park is surrounded by the "heat island" of Manhattan, its temperatures are influenced by the grass and trees, which retain the humidity more than the concrete surroundings of airports.  As a result, afternoon temperatures in the summertime don't rise as much as they do at the three airports, and nighttime temperatures don't fall as much during the winter or summer. 


I've looked at five statistics, which cover temperatures and precipitation for the 2000-2018 period.  Of the four weather stations, Central Park averages the most days with highs of 32° or colder and receives the most precipitation.  Newark is tops in the number of 90-degree days, lows of 32° or colder and snowfall. 



Central Park: Averages 15.8 days. The biggest difference between CPK and Newark was in 2006, when CPK had only eight days, 50% below average, while Newark had 27, an average number for that site.

Newark: The hottest site, with 27.6 days.  It's the site that's reported the most in all but two years; in 2018 its 10-year streak of having the most was snapped.

LaGuardia: 22.1 days.  It was the site with the most hot days in 2007 and in 2018.

Kennedy: 11.3 days.  In 2018 CPK, NWK and LGA were well above their averages, but JFK had a below average number (eight).



Central Park: Averages 17.7 days.  It had the most of the four stations in ten years, and four first-place ties.

Newark: 15.9 days.  It reported the most in one year, and one first-place tie.

LaGuardia: 16.2 days.  It eported the most in two years, and one first-place tie.

Kennedy: 16.1 days.  It reported the most in two years, and two first-place ties)



Central Park: An average of 68.7 days.  It's never led in this category.

Newark: 81.3 days.  In addition to having the most days in the 90s, it also averages the most cold nights.  It had the most in all but three years, one of them being 2018.

LaGuardia: 63.2 days.  Like CPK, it's never led in this category.

Kennedy: 75.9 days.  It had the most in three years, including 2018.



Central Park: The wettest site, with an average of 51.36".  Six years reported 55"+ and two years had less than 40"; the wettest station every year but two.

Newark: 47.09".  Five years had 50"+; reported the most in 2017.

LaGuardia: 46.64".   Seven years had 50"+; it's never reported the most.

Kennedy: 44.48".  Four years had 50"+, five years had less than 40"; it reported the most one time, during the dry year of 2012 (when all four stations had less than 40").



Central Park: 33.9".  50"+ fell in three of the years; it had the most snow in three years,  including 2018.

Newark: 35.4".  Four years had 50"+; the snowiest site, it had the most in half of the years of the period, and tied with CPK in 2010.

LaGuardia: 32.9".  Two years had 50"+; it had the most in five of the years.

Kennedy: 29.6".  One year had 50"+; it had the most snow of the four stations in 2016.






Record Highs & Lows: The Home Runs of Weather Reporting

Record.cold Record.heatBecause of the excitement they generate I like to think of record high and low temperatures as the home runs of the weather world.  Since weather records for New York go all the way back to 1869 it's a challenge for new ones to be set.  Still, since 2000 (thru 2018) there have been 82 records set or tied, which is about four every year (in 2018 two new record highs were established and two were tied).  However, only nine of the 82 were record lows (most recently on Nov. 11, 2017).  Here are some other interesting facts about New York's temperature extremes:


  • The oldest-standing record is the record low of March 1 which goes all the way back to the first year of record keeping, 1869.  The oldest-standing record high occurred nearly as far back, on Jan. 23, 1874.  The newest record (thru the end of 2018) was set on May 3, 2018 when the high reached 92°.
  • 22 record highs and 91 record lows stand alone, i.e. not shared with other years.  The most years tied for a record on one date is six, for record lows on three dates: March 3 (11°), June 2 (48°) and Sept. 8 (54°).  (Ties would be less prevalent if daily temperatures were reported to one decimal point.)
  • There are 21 current records that broke a record set the previous year (12 for lows, nine for highs).  The most recent occurrence was in 1994 when the record high on June 19 broke the previous record set the year before.




  • The most that a record beat the previous record by was 19 degrees on Sept. 7, 1881 (101° vs. 82°).  There are 31 current high temperature records that beat the previous record by 10 degrees or more.  The most recent happened on Feb. 21, 2018 when the new record high was 10 degrees above the previous record (78° vs. 68°).  Eight record lows exceeded the previous record by 10 degrees or more, with the largest difference being 14 degrees on Dec. 18, 1919 (-1° vs. 13°).
  • Of the 150 years since 1869, three had no record highs or lows: 1870, 1958 and 1992.  The year with the most records was 1888 when 49 were set (38 were record lows, 11 record highs).  In recent years the year with the most records was 2001, which had 15 (14 record highs, one record low).  These figures reflect records that may no longer be valid, with many broken in subsequent years.  Looking at records that are still standing, 1888 still has the most, but the figure is 18; it's tied with 1875.  
  • The mildest reading for a record low is 59°, and it has occurred twice - on July 29 (in 1914) and on Aug. 1 (1964).  The lowest temperature for a record high is 54°, which was set on Feb. 7, 1938.  
  • Finally, New York's all time hottest and coldest temperatures occurred just two years apart, in 1934 (-15° on Feb. 9) and in 1936 (106° on July 9).




Chart - record highs and lows


(This post was inspired by an in-depth compilation of data supplied by Eugene De Marco, another New York City weather hobbyist.)





January 2015 - Not as Cold & Snowy as Last Year, But Sill Cold & Snowy

January 2015Compared to last January, January 2015 wasn't as cold or snowy, but it was still colder and snowier than average, with a mean temperature 2.7 degrees below average and snowfall more than double the month's average (16.9" vs. 7.0").  It was also the wettest January since 1999.  What follows are the four key stories of the month:



  • A typical January is five degrees colder than December, but this year it was 11 degrees colder as December was on the mild side (3.2 degrees above average).
  • There was a "January thaw" of just one day, on Jan. 5 when it was 56°/41°.  After that day the "warmest" temperature for the rest of the month was just 43°.  By contrast, January 2014 had a thaw of five days.
  • The rainstorm of Jan. 18, which drenched the area with 2.10", was the biggest rainstorm in January since 1999.
  • Of course, the biggest story of the month was the blizzard that fizzled during the last week of the month, giving the City "just" 9.8" rather than 24"-36" that had been predicted the day before the storm moved in.




JANUARY 2015 vs. JANUARY 2014
  2015 2014 Average
Average High (+/-) 36.1 (-2.2°) 35.4 (-2.9°) 38.3
Warmest Reading 59° 58° 59°
Average Low (+/-) 23.6 (-3.3°) 21.8 (-5.1°) 26.9
Coldest Reading
Mean Temp (+/-) 29.9 (-2.7°) 28.6 (-4.0°) 32.6
Highs of 32 or Colder 13°
Precipitation 5.23" 2.79" 4.13"
Snowfall 16.9" 19.7" 7.0"


Unlike Rest of World, 2014 Was Far From Warmest Year in New York

GlobalwarmingScientists at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported on Friday (1/16) that the Earth experienced its warmest year on record in 2014.  However, the story was different in New York City as 2014 was the coolest in five years.  (And in the past 50 years two-thirds of the years were warmer than 2014.)  Seven months last year experienced cooler than average temperatures, with January, February, March and November being especially below average.   And during the summer only eight days saw 90-degree readings (average number is eighteen), with the hottest being just 92°.


January -4.0    
February -3.7    
March -4.8    
April -0.7    
May +1.6    
June +1.0    
July -0.4    
August -0.7    
September +1.7    
October +2.7    
November -2.4    
December +3.2    
ANNUAL -0.8    

New York's warmest year was 2012 (2.8 degrees warmer than 2014), just 0.1 degree warmer than 1990, 1991 and 1998.  Four of the Earth's ten warmest years are also among New York's top 10.  Despite the overall warming trend, two of our warmest years occurred more than 60 years ago (1949 and 1953).


2012 57.3
1998 57.2
1991 57.2
1990 57.2
1953 57.0
1949 56.9
2006 56.8
2010 56.7
1999 56.5
2011 56.4
2002 56.4
30-Year Average 55.3
2014 54.5

Although NYC wasn't as warm as the rest of the world in 2014, it's important to keep in mind that rising ocean levels resulting from the steady warm up will still effect us.  


When March is Colder Than December

AnomalyTypically the month of December is five degrees colder than March, but about every five years (based on records since 1960) March is colder.  2014 was one of these years as March, the coldest in 30 years, was three degrees colder than December.  Of the 34 years (since 1869) in which March was colder than December, the most extreme was in 2015 when it was 12.7 degrees colder (that December was the mildest on record).  Here are some other tidbits ...


  • Of the years in which March has been colder than December, both months had below average temperatures in five of them.  The last time this happened was in 1916.  And in 1982 and 2006, despite March being colder than December, both months were milder than average.
  • The most consecutive years in which December was colder than March is fourteen, from 1942 thru 1955.  However, there have never been more than two consecutive years in which March was colder than December. Finally, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century March was colder than December in half of the years. 
  • Interestingly, one of the coldest March's on record, in 1960, wasn't colder than that year's December, which was also much below average.


  Mean Temp Difference
  March Dec. March v Dec.
Average* 42.5 37.5 5.0
       2015     38.1     50.8         -12.7
2014 37.7 40.5 -2.8
2011 42.3 43.3 -1.0
2006 43.1 43.6 -0.5
2001 39.6 44.1 -4.5
1996 38.9 41.3 -2.4
1994 40.7 42.2 -1.5
1984 36.7 43.8 -7.1
1982 42.0 42.8 -0.8
1971 40.1 40.8 -0.7
  Mean Temp Difference
  March Dec. March v Dec.
2015 38.1 50.8 -12.7
1984 36.7 43.8 -7.1
1891 35.8 42.3 -6.5
1923 36.8 42.0 -5.2
1885 30.6 35.7 -5.1
1911 34.7 39.4 -4.7
1888 30.0 34.7 -4.7
2001 39.6 44.1 -4.5

January thru April 2014 Was the Coldest in New York Since 1970

Nyc.iceageThe first four months of 2014 all had below average temperatures, making this the chilliest beginning of a year since 1970.  (It was 0.1 degree chillier than 2003).  However, while this year has been chilly by today's climate standards, it wouldn't have gotten much notice in the years before 1940 when half of the years were colder.  While only three years since 1940 have been chillier than 2014, between 1869-1939 more than half of the years started out colder.  Looking at all years since 1869, 2014 is ranked 40th.  That still makes it relatively chilly, but far from the colder levels experienced more than 100 years ago as shown in the chart below:     


1940 34.9  
1970 37.2  
1948 37.3  
2014 37.6  
2003 37.7  
1875 31.6  
1888 32.0  
1885 33.2  
1904 33.5  
1893 33.7  
1883 33.8  
1881 34.1  
1872 34.6  
1940 34.9  
1887 34.9  
1920 35.0  
1895 35.0  


Jack Frost Nipping at Your Nose: Cold Winter Days (1970 - 2020)



An average New York winter has 18 days with high temperatures of 32° or colder (20% of its days).  Since 1970 the number has ranged from as few as three, in the winters of 2002 and 2020, to as many as 45, in 1977 (half of that winter's days).  Being that it's winter suggests that cold conditions would predominate, when, in fact, there aren't nearly as many of these cold days as there are days entirely above freezing (18 vs. 34).  However, there have been nine very cold winters in which days of freezing weather or colder outnumbered the milder days.  


  Cold Mild  
 Winter Days Days  
2014 27 26  
2011 22 17  
2003 30 21  
1996 28 25  
1994 30 22  
1981 30 23  
1978 36 21  
1977 45 17  
1970 27 15  
Typical Winter 18 34  

(The winter of 2015 isn't on the chart above because, despite its frigid February, December was the mildest on record, and the winter ended up with 25 cold days and 27 mild ones.)


By month, only one January since 1970 had no freezing or colder days, and that was in 1990 (after one of the coldest Decembers on record).  The most such days, 25, occurred in 1977.   Meanwhile, three Februarys had no days of 32° or colder; in December it's happened eight times. 


  Average Most Year Least Year
Winter 18 45 1977 3 2020*
December 4 17 1989 0 2013*
January 9 25 1977 0 1990
February 5 15 1979 0 2003*
*Most recent occurrence      


Finally, although they occur infrequently, November and March (which fall outside of "meteorological" winter) occasionally experience days with highs of 32° or colder.  While March sees one of these days once ever one or two years, in November it happens just once every seven years.  And no November has had more than one of these cold days (with the winter of 2013-14 being the most recent), while in March the most was six, in 1978, and five in 1984 and 2017.  The winters of 1990 and 2009 have the distinction of being the only ones book-ended by days at freezing or colder in both November and March. 







January 2014's Weather Was Harsh, but January 2009 Was Colder



January 2014 was a cold/snowy month, four degrees colder than average and with nearly 20 inches of snow.  With a mean temperature of 28.6 degrees, it was the coldest in five years, when January 2009 had a mean temperature of 28.1 degrees.  This surprised me because conditions this January seemed harsher, and a side-by-side comparison of daily temperatures of the two months seems to bear this out:


  • This year had eleven days that were 10 degrees or more colder than average while there just six such days in 2009. 
  • 2014 had ten days with lows of 15° or colder compared to only five in 2009. 
  • This January had eight days with highs of 25° or colder while there were just three five years ago.  One thing the two years had in common was the same number of days with highs of 32° or below, thirteen.


The  reason 2009 was colder overall was due to its lack of any extended stretch of mild weather.  In 2014 there was a week-long period (1/11 thru 1/17) in which the temperature never fell below 32°.  In 2009 there was only one such day.  Also, this year had five days that were 10 degrees or more above average - 2009 had no such days.  Four days in January 2014 reported highs in the 50s while 2009's mildest reading was 47°.  As a result, although this year's average low was colder than 2009's (21.8 degrees vs. 22.4 degrees) its average high of 35.4 degrees was 1.9 degrees above that of five years ago, and that is what gave 2009 a colder mean temperature.  (By the way, this year's average low was the coldest in ten years.)




As far snowfall is concerned, this January had more than twice as much accumulation - 19.7" vs. 9.0".   Interestingly, 2009 had four snowfalls of one-inch or more - one more than this year.  However, this year's snowfalls were: 11.5", 6.4", 1.0" and 0.8" while five years ago the accumulations were: 4.0", 3.0" and two snowfalls of 1.0".




JANUARY 2014 v 2009    
  2014 2009
Mean Temperature 28.6 28.1
Average High 35.4 33.5
Average Low 21.8 22.4
Warmest 58 47
Coldest 4 6
Lows of 15 or colder 10 5
Highs of 25 or colder 8 3
Highs of 32 or colder 13 13
Mean temp 10+ deg above 5 0
Mean temp 10+ deg below 11 6
Snow 19.7" 9.0"



January Isn't Always the Coldest, July Isn't Always the Hottest



A reader recently asked if there have ever been any winters in which February was colder than January.  While it's not the norm, it happens occasionally.  Actually, more often than occasionally - 57 times, or nearly 40% of all years since 1869 (and it happened last winter).  In fact, New York's all time coldest month occurred in February 1934.  Perhaps of greater interest is the fact that there have been 17 winters in which December was the coldest month, the most recent being December 2005.  But the biggest anomaly of all occurred in the winter of 1960, when March was the coldest month!

For the most part, when February and August were colder/warmer than January or July it was when January was milder and July cooler than average.  However, there were six winters when both months were colder than normal (the most recent being in 1978).  And there have been four summers in which both months had above average temperatures (most recently in 2005).