December Feed

Snow Creates Excitement, But Rain Gets No Love

 Sled riding in central park_time out ny

Pity the rain.  It doesn't generate anywhere near the levels of excitement accorded snow.  (In a Brady Bunch analogy, rain is Jan, snow is Marcia.)  Perhaps it's because snow is a seasonal treat confined mostly to four months of the year (in New York), while rain has a year-round presence.  Snow is also limited by geography, so persons from warm climates get a thrill when they encounter snow.  Sure, kids may enjoy jumping in puddles, and it can be comforting hearing the pitter-patter of rain on the roof, but rain never enthralls us the way snow does.  It possesses a certain "je ne sais quoi" that rain simply doesn't have.

 

Marcia-marcia-marcia

Perhaps the enthusiasm for snow comes from childhood memories, e.g., sled riding, making snow angels, building forts, school closings, Christmas.  And although rain may generate feelings of gratitude from farmers, it doesn't inspire the fevered anticipation of a snowstorm.  No sporting events have been inspired by rain, nor does anyone think back wistfully about rain that fell on someone's wedding day; or a downpour that washed out a summertime barbecue; or a deluge that rained out a baseball game (football games, by contrast, are rarely cancelled because of snow). 

 

There's also something magical about how a snowfall muffles the din of the City, and how its shimmering silver-white color scheme can light up a winter night.  Rain, on the other hand, leaves behind a muddy residue and litters the sidewalks with broken umbrellas.  (And when I was growing up in suburbia, worms would appear on the streets after a rainfall.)

 

Snow transforms the cityscape as it piles on top of railings, mailboxes and cars, and beautifully etches tree branches.  (I've always been amazed that snow is able to accumulate on Manhattan's busy streets.)  With rain, everything basically looks as it did before the rain started, except that surfaces take on a sheen when wet (especially at night).   Another contrast is that snow depths can be easily gauged by sight, but not so much with rain.  While it's easy to tell the difference between a few inches of snow and a foot of it, can you tell the difference between a quarter-inch rainfall and one of one inch?  (OK, perhaps there are more puddles.)

 

Winter 2017 - snow blindness

I can attest to the draw of snow since my most popular posts, by far, are those that analyze snowfall, with audience-traffic many times greater than posts about rain.  (I've written 30 posts about various aspects of snow, double the number I've penned about rain.)

 

It should be noted that the love for snow doesn't extend to sleet.  And rain's attempts at a brand extension, i.e., freezing rain, gets even less love than rain.  Despite the accolades it receives, snow is by no means perfect.  Shoveling can bring on a heart-attack; flights are cancelled; plows push snow back onto recently shoveled sidewalks; eyeglasses get broken during snowball fights, and dogs whimper from the sting of rock salt on their paws.  But, like a favored child, these personality flaws are largely overlooked.  

 

The weather hobbyists among us pore over snowfall totals, fixating on every tenth of an inch of accumulation.  We become infuriated whenever a forecast doesn't deliver on its promise, and, oh, how we dread a changeover to sleet, or, God forbid, rain!  By comparison, there is very little grousing when a rainstorm "fizzles" out. 

 

Central Park's weather station is held in low regard by many because it seems to report lower snow totals than surrounding sites.  For some reason, it tends to have the least efficient water: snow ratio.  It may very well be a gross generalization (albeit based on years of observation), but it just seems that if Central Park and each of the area's three airports receive an inch of liquid precipitation, this amount will produce eight inches in the park, a foot at Newark, and and an amount somewhere in between at LaGuardia and JFK.  Who knows why?  (Detractors of Central Park's weather station suggest incompetence.)

 

One area in which rain and snow seem to get equal treatment is automobile advertising, where cars on rain-slicked streets seem to be featured just as often as those shown bounding through snow-covered country roads.

 

Car advertisement in rain

 Car ad in snow_audi

Finally, the snow experience in Manhattan is different from that of the suburbs.  The beauty of the snow lasts for just a day - two days max.  The sound of snowplows scraping the streets can be grating, and the transformation of snow into slush at street corners is dispiriting.  And be on the lookout for snow crashing down from the tops of buildings!  On the positive side, snow often results in suspension of alternate side of the street parking regulations, and those of us who are apartment dwellers aren't tasked with shoveling, so we can walk around taking selfies to our heart's content, or put on cross-country skies and pretend to be on a ski weekend.  And perhaps the best thing of all is that the hustle-bustle of the City is silenced for a brief time.

 

Snow selfie dec 2020

 

Snow vs rain

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


December 2020 Weather Recap: Two Storms Grab Headlines

Janice huff wnbc dec2020

 

The lasting memory of December 2020 will no doubt be the snowstorm of Dec. 16-17.  The 10.5" of snow that piled up was the biggest snowfall in December since 2010 and the thirteenth December snowfall of 10"+.  Another highlight was the intense rainstorm that blew through the City on Christmas morning.  The month was 1.7 degrees above average - the City's 34th mildest December (since 1869).  But despite being milder than average it had more days with highs of 32° or colder than all of last winter (four vs. three).  Additionally, the big snowstorm produced more than twice as much snow as the previous winter (10.5" vs. 4.8").

 

  • Five days had highs of 55° or milder while six days had lows of 25° or colder.  There were three days with highs in the low 60s, evenly spaced, on 12/1 (62°), 12/13 (62°) and 12/25 (61°).  Five of the six days with lows of 25° or colder had lows of 24° (the outlier was the reading of 20° on 12/19).
  • The mildest and coldest periods of December occurred during the fifteen-day period from Dec. 11 thru Dec. 25.

 

Chart - december 2020 coldest_mildest periods

 

  • Christmas Day's high of 61° (before sunrise) made it the eighth Christmas with a high in the 60s, and the 0.92" of rain that fell was the third greatest amount on the holiday.  After the high was reached the temperature fell steadily throughout the day and was down to 29° by midnight.  This 32-degree drop was the greatest of any calendar date in 2020.
  • Although the month was on the mild side, five Decembers in the past ten years were even milder.

 

Chart - mildest decembers since 2011

 

  • December 2020 was the 29th December with ten or more inches of snow (nearly 20% of all Decembers).  However, it was the second mildest December (after Dec. 1912) to have this much snow.  Although their average temperatures weren't quite as mild as this December, the Decembers of 1948, 1959 and 2003 had considerably more snow (25.3", 15.8" and 19.8", respectively).

 

Chart - snowy mild decembers

 

  • Much of the month's 4.61" of precipitation (0.61" above average) fell from three storm systems, all which produced more than an inch of precipitation:  1.13" on Dec. 4-5; 1.52" on Dec. 16-17; and 1.16" on Dec. 24-25.
  • Finally, similar to November, December had a lot of days with gusty winds, with Central Park having nine days with a peak gust of 33 mph or more.  The peak gust of 47 mph occurred early Christmas morning.

 

Chart - December peak wind gusts

 Snowstorm of dec 1617 2020

 

Other December recaps:

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

 

 

 


Notable December Cold Snaps

The weather outside is frightful

Nearly 40% of Decembers since 1869, or 59, have experienced cold snaps/cold waves that lasted five days or longer (about half were seven+ days).  The most recent occurred in 2017.  In addition to the five-days+ qualifier, a cold snap needed to have an average high temperature of 32° or colder to be part of this analysis.  The longest of them lasted 15 days, in 1876; six have had sub-zero readings; six had twelve inches of of snow or more; and six had no snow whatsoever (not even a trace).  Finally, six Decembers had two periods of Arctic cold.

 

COLDEST

The coldest December cold wave occurred in 1917, when the six days between Dec. 17-22 had an average high/low of 17°/2°.  Most recently, the last six days of Dec. 2017 had an average high/low of 23°/15°, which tied for ninth coldest.

 

Chart - coldest december cold snaps

LENGTHIEST

Fifteen Decembers have had cold waves lasting ten or more days.  The lengthiest was 16 days in Dec. 1904 (average high of 32°/22°), followed by a 15-day stretch in 1876 (27°/17°).  The coldest of these lengthy cold waves was one of 10 days in 1872 (24°/10°).

 

Chart - lengthiest december cold waves

 

TWO IN ONE MONTH!

Six Decembers had two significant cold snaps.  The last time it happened was in 1955, with one of five days and the other lasting six days (they were three days apart).  The two in 1917 covered 15 days (eight days apart).

 

Chart - decembers with two cold snaps

 

COLD SNAPS MORE PREVALENT 100+ YEARS AGO

The greatest concentration of Decembers with cold waves was between 1876 and 1904, when 20 of the 29 Decembers had at least one cold snap.  The most consecutive Decembers to have a cold snap is four, which has happened four times: in 1901-1904, 1914-1917, 1932-35 and 1942-45; there have also been four three-year streaks, with the most recent being 1958-1960.  The most consecutive years without a cold snap is eight, and it's happened twice, in 1981-1988 and 2001-2008.  And there was a seven-year hiatus from 2010 to 2016.

 

SNOWIEST & LEAST SNOWY

Six cold snaps received more than 13 inches of snow.  The most was 22.5" in 1883 and 21.5" in 1872.  The most recent was in 2000 when 13.3" fell.  Five of the Decembers had snowstorms that dumped a foot or more, with the most being 18.0" on Dec. 26, 1872.  And although December 1942, with 6.0", isn't found on the "most snowy" list below, it's worth mentioning because it had measurable snow on six of the cold wave's ten days.

 

Chart - snowiest december cold snaps

 

At the other end of the snow spectrum, ten December cold snaps had no measurable snow.  Eight of them were five or six days in duration, but December 1870 and December 1989 lasted 11 and 10 days, respectively.

 Chart - december cold snaps with no snow

BELOW ZERO READINGS

Seven of the Decembers had at least one sub-zero low.  The most recent was in 1980 (on Christmas Day).  These cold waves accounted for all of the twelve sub-zero lows that have been reported in December.  And although December 1872 had no below-zero readings, it had the distinction of having six days in a row with lows in the single digits (ranging from 4° to 8°).  At the other end of the spectrum, the coldest temperatures of five December cold snaps was a relatively mild 18° or 19° (most recently in 1970).

 

Chart - subzero readings in december

 

 

Frigid-cold-blast-to-strike-usa


December 2019 Repeats December 2018's Wet Conditions

Dec 13 grand central wreath

 

December 2019 was the wettest month of the year and fifth wettest December on record (7.09" was measured).  Much of its precipitation fell in the first two weeks of the month.  In fact, the 5.05" that was measured during this period was the third greatest amount to fall in the first two weeks of any December.   Looking at temperature, the month was slightly above average (+0.8°).  Although Dec. 1-22 was 2.5 degrees colder than average, the rest of the month was mild enough (+9 degrees), to push the entire month into the above average column.  The mildest reading of the month was 58° (on 12/10), making this the first December since 2005 not to have any readings of 60° or warmer.  The coldest reading, 16° on 12/19, was three degrees colder than the typical coldest reading of December.  The 19th was also the only day that had a high of 32° or colder (25°).

 

Despite the month's surplus precipitation there were ten consecutive days with no measurable precipitation (Dec. 19-28).  This matched a 10-day stretch in September - the longest dry spells of the year.  (September 2019 had just 0.95" of rain, making it the eighth driest September on record).  Coincidentally, last year's wet December (ninth wettest) also had a ten-day stretch with no precipitation.

 

Being the wettest month of a year is rare for December.  Before 2019 only two other years had December as their wettest month - in 1957 (when 5.26" was reported) and in 1973 (9.98" was measured).  Another distinction for Dec. 2019 is that it was just the 13th month to have more than seven inches of rain as well as a streak of 10 or more days without any measurable precipitation.  (The longest streak during one of these months was thirteen days in June 2006).

 

Chart - 7 inches monthly rain

In addition to the soggy first two weeks, other December highlights included the season's first measurable snowfall on 12/2 (1.3" fell) and an out of the ordinary snow squall of 10-15 minutes during the afternoon of 12/18 that ushered in the coldest weather of December (0.4" accumulated, and an additional 0.3" fell from a snow shower a few hours later).  Additionally, the first four days of the month had highs/lows stuck in the 30s, just the sixth time there's been a streak of this length or longer.

 

Snow squall dec 19 2019

 

Finally, December 2018 and 2019 joined December 2008 and 2009 as the second pair of consecutive years to be among the ten wettest Decembers (2009 is #4; 2019 is #5; 2008 is #9; and 2018 is in tenth place). 

Previous December recaps:

2018

2017

2016

2015

 

 


In a Rut: Temperatures Stuck in the 30s

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

 

 

 


Snowstorms From Back in "The Good Old Days" (1900 - 1949)

1910s snowstorm in newyrok_XXHistoricSnow-AST-8-superJumboBy far the most popular posts on this site are about snowstorms.  And after reading a recent photo essay in the New York Times about snowstorms of the distant past I was inspired to write another - this one about those that crippled New York in the first half of the 20th century.  It's worth noting that back then snow removal was on the primitive side, largely dependent upon on manual labor, so relatively modest accumulations created problems that might happen nowadays with significantly greater accumulations (i.e., six inches in 1910 might be comparable in inconvenience to what a foot or more of snow creates today).  Furthermore, since the work ethos of that era was different than what it is today, employers weren't as forgiving when treacherous weather conditions made it difficult for workers to get to their jobs.

 

WINTER OF 1901-02

Feb. 17, 1902 - This storm dropped 10".  (Similar to a few other winter storms in the first decade of the century, I was unable to find details about when the snow fell, what the hourly amounts were or what the wind speed and direction were for each hour of the day.)

 

WINTER OF 1902-03

Dec. 25, 1902- This was the second significant snowfall in the past two weeks.  After 6.4" fell on Dec. 12-14 (most of it falling on the 13th), 6.5" fell today. 

Feb. 15-17, 1903 - This was a snow and sleet storm, which began mid-day on the 15th, continued through much of the 16th, and ended mid-day on the 17th.  In total 9.8" accumulated (accounting for all of February's snow).  During the first two days temperatures ranged between 28° and 30° then fell into the teens around daybreak on the 17th.

 

WINTER OF 1903-04

Jan. 2-3, 1904 - All but a half-inch of the storm's eight inches fell today during the afternoon and evening.  Temperatures fell slowly thru the day, dropping from 26° to 13°. 

 

WINTER OF 1904-05

Dec. 17-18, 1904 - Bringing to mind December 1902, two significant snowfalls fell in the course of a week as seven inches fell on Dec. 12-13 and a half foot fell today.  Snowfall from both was pretty evenly split between the two days of each snowfall. 

Jan. 3-4, 1905 - Seven inches of snow fell between mid-afternoon on 1/3 and mid-morning the following day.  After passage of a cold front mid-morning on the 3rd (with winds shifting from the northeast to the northwest) temperatures fell from the low-40s to mid-20s, when snow began falling, and were in the mid-teens when the snow came to an end.  The snow was blown around by winds gusting between 25-30 mph. 

Jan. 24-25, 1905 - Snow began falling after 9PM and continued for 24 hours, accumulating 11".  It was a fluffy snow with just 0.54" of water content.  During the course of the storm the temperature dropped from mid-20s to low teens.  Snow fell heaviest between 8AM and noon on the 25th when an Arctic front moved through.  Besides the cold and snow, the afternoon also featured gusty winds (25-30 mph).

 

Vintage-snow-removal-in-the-new-york-city-late-19th-century-05

 

WINTER OF 1905-06

Feb. 8-9, 1906 - Six inches of snow fell, much of it during the morning of the 9th.  Temperatures were mostly in the 31° to 33° range.  Snow changed to sleet and freezing rain shortly after daybreak on the 9th and continued through mid-day. 

March 15, 1906 - This cold, late winter storm had temperatures that were only in the mid-20s (typical high for mid-March is mid-40s) as a half-foot of snow piled up.  Snow began falling shortly before daybreak and continued until 10PM.  Despite the cold temperatures it was a wet snow, with 1.09" of liquid measured.

 

WINTER OF 1906-07

Jan. 17, 1907 - It was very cold during this quick-moving six-inch snowfall, with temperatures in the mid-teens when the snow began, rising into the low 20s during the afternoon.  The snow fell during the daylight hours, coming down heaviest in the early afternoon.

Feb. 4-5, 1907 - Snow began around noon and continued for nearly 24 hours, accumulating 11".  It fell heaviest between 8PM and 4AM.  Temperatures stayed in a narrow range of 19° to 22°.  This storm followed a snowfall of four inches on the first two days of the month.

 

Snowy central park 1910s

 

Feb. 24, 1907 - Six inches of snow piled up between 1PM and 10PM.  Temperatures rose steadily, from low 20s when the snow started, to the mid-30s when it changed to rain and sleet in the final few hours.

March 10, 1907 - Much of today's six-inch accumulation fell between 1:00 and 5PM.  Temperatures ranged between 27° and 30°.  This was the winter's fourth snowfall of six inches or more since mid-January.

 

WINTER OF 1907-08

Jan. 23-24, 1908 - A 10-inch snowstorm began after dark on the 23rd, with three inches measured thru midnight, and an additional seven inches during the morning of the 24th.

 

Snowstorm 1908 by-9-E-14th-St-Jan-24-1908-300x214

 

Feb. 5-6, 1908 - The day began bitterly cold with a low of 1° above zero (the coldest reading of the winter).  Then the temperature rose all day and was 32° by midnight.  Snow began falling in the afternoon and continued into the next day with four inches falling on each day.  After 8" had fallen the snow changed to rain as the temperature rose to 40° (it tumbled back to 29° by midnight).  This snowstorm came almost one year to the day of an 11-inch snowstorm.

 

WINTER OF 1909-10

Dec. 25-26, 1909 - Snow began mid-afternoon on Christmas Day and fell for nearly 24 hours, accumulating eight inches.  Much of the snow fell on the 25th, and in above-freezing temperatures.

Jan. 14, 1910 - The biggest snowfall of the winter blanketed the City with 10" (0.5" of it fell on 1/15).  This came three weeks after a snowfall of eight inches.  Snow began falling shortly after midnight and fell steadily through late afternoon.  After the temperature rose to 33° late in the morning it fell steadily until 9PM when it was 20°.

 

WINTER OF 1911-12  

Dec. 4, 1911 - A morning snowfall of seven inches ended up being the biggest snowfall of the winter.  Precipitation began yesterday evening as rain but changed to snow overnight. The day's high/low of 33/19 made this the coldest day of the month.

 

WINTER OF 1912-13

Dec. 24, 1912 - A morning snowstorm dumped 11.4", making this Christmas Eve's biggest snowfall on record.  Snow fell heaviest between 4-9AM, when it fell at a rate of 1.5" per hour.

 

Snowstorm_NYCApril1915

 

WINTER OF 1913-14

Feb. 13-14, 1914 - On the 13th the temperature rose from -1° to the mid-20s by midnight.  Snow began falling after 7PM, fell heavily through the overnight hours and then changed to sleet around daybreak as the temperature rose into the low 30s.  9.7" accumulated.  Then on 2/16 there was a five-inch snowfall during the morning in temperatures that were in the teens.

March 1, 1914 - Rain in the morning changed to snow around lunchtime and by midnight 13.5" had accumulated (an additional inch fell after midnight on 3/2).  It was a very heavy, wet snow with a high water content (2.65") until around 9PM when Arctic air moved in.  This was the century's first snowstorm of a foot or more, and the first since February 1899, when 16 inches piled up.  This remains the longest period between snowstorms of 12 inches or more.

 

January 13 snowstorm in nyc

 

WINTER OF 1914-15

April 3, 1915 - The biggest snowfall of the "winter" blanketed the City on what was Easter Saturday as ten inches of heavy snow fell between 9AM and 11PM (eight inches fell between 11AM and 6PM).  During the storm winds from out of the north gusted to 25 mph and temperatures hovered around 30°, producing wind chills in the teens.

 

Weather - NYC snowstorm April1915

 

WINTER OF 1916-17

Dec. 15, 1916 - A snowstorm dumped 12.7" of snow between 7AM-9PM, with nearly ten inches on the ground by mid-afternoon.  The snow was very powdery, produced from just 0.59" of water (and by daybreak on 12/16 it had packed down to nine inches on the ground).  The day's high was 28°, the first of five days in a row with highs in the 20s.

April 9, 1917 - One of April's biggest snowstorms dumped 6.5" (0.1" of it fell late last night).  This brought the winter's total snowfall to 50.7" for the second year in a row.  The snow was over by 7AM and by noon the temperature was in the upper 30s, where it stayed for the remainder of the afternoon.  Combined with sunny skies, substantial melting took place and by nightfall there was less than two inches on the ground in Central Park.

 

WINTER OF 1917-18

Dec. 13, 1917 - The biggest snowfall of the winter began late in the afternoon and by the time the snow ended in the early hours of 12/14 9.5" had accumulated (eight inches fell today).  The temperature rose into the mid-30s as midnight approached, making it a very wet snow, with rain mixed in at times. 

 

1917-snowstorm-New-York-cars-trapped-833x900
 

WINTER OF 1919-20

Feb. 4-7, 1920 - One of New York's most extended onslaughts of winter weather of all time brought 72 hours of snow, sleet and freezing rain (beginning after 2AM on 2/4 and ending around dawn on 2/7).  During this punishing storm, 4.41" of liquid precipitation fell, 17.5" of it in the form of snow (five to six inches of snow fell on 2/4, 2/5 and 2/6); the rest was sleet and freezing rain.  For much of the storm temperatures were in the 20s, and winds gusted between 35 and 45 mph, with wind chills in the single digits.

 

February1920_XXHistoricSnow-AST-6-superJumbo

 

WINTER OF 1920-21

Feb. 20, 1921 - The winter's biggest snowfall amounted to 12.5".  Beginning shortly after midnight as rain, it quickly changed over to snow after 1AM and continued until early evening; it was a very wet snow, with 2.68" of liquid precipitation measured.  The temperature fell slowly through the day, from 35° to 22° (on the way to 14° by daybreak on the 21st).  Winds gusted to 41 mph.

 

WINTER OF 1921-22

Jan. 28-29, 1922 - New York was on the northern fringe of a winter storm that became known as the "Knickerbocker Snowstorm", named after a movie theater in Washington, DC whose roof collapsed from the weight of snow the night of 1/28, killing 98 moviegoers.  And although NYC escaped the paralyzing amounts of snow that piled up in Virginia, DC, Maryland and southeastern PA (6.5" fell in Central Park, the biggest snowfall of the winter), gale force winds clocked at between 35 and 50 mph howled for nearly 24 hours, beginning mid-day on the 28th.  Temperatures throughout the storm were in the 29° to 31° range, with chills in the low teens.

 

WINTER OF 1922-23

Jan. 3-4, 1923 - The biggest snowfall of the winter began this afternoon and continued until daybreak on the 4th, accumulating nine inches.  The temperature fell slowly through the storm, dropping from 33° to 29°.

Jan. 14, 1923 - Snow began falling after 10AM and by 5PM 7.8" had accumulated; then it changed to light rain for the next three hours as the temperature rose into the mid-30s.

 

Snowy street in nyc_1923

 

March 6-7, 1923 - Snow began falling around 10AM and continued light and steady for the next 24 hours, accumulating 7.3" (along with a mix with sleet and freezing rain after 4PM). This was the tenth snowfall of three inches or more this winter.  Besides the snow/ice, winds gusted to 30-35 mph, and temperatures were very cold on the 6th, with a high/low of only 25/19.

 

WINTER OF 1923-24

April 1, 1924 - It was no April Fool's joke as 8.5" of heavy, wet snow fell from mid-afternoon through 9PM.  Interestingly, snow fell mostly with temperatures two or three degrees above freezing.  Besides the snow, gale force winds gusted to 35 mph.

 

WINTER OF 1924-25

Jan. 2, 1925 - A blizzard dumped close to a foot of snow (11.5").  Snow began falling around daybreak and lasted until 11PM.  In addition to snow there were also periods of heavy sleet in the early afternoon.  Temperatures throughout the storm were in the mid-20s, but howling winds gusting between 35-40 mph produced wind chills in the single digits.

 

Trolley-stuck-in-snow-1925-photo-Acme

 

Jan. 20, 1925 - A fierce storm dumped seven inches of snow and ice, with much of the snow falling between 1:00 and 8AM before it changed to sleet, which was driven by winds that gusted close to 40 mph. The sleet came down heaviest during the mid-day hours as the temperature rose above freezing briefly before falling back into the 20s.  Snow returned in the storm's last few hours. 

 

WINTER OF 1925-26

Feb. 10, 1926 - Less than a week after a fierce blizzard brought 10.4" of snow and sleet (accompanied by wind gusts of 40-45 mph) another snowstorm dumped a foot on the City, much of it falling this morning between 3:00 and 9:00 (light snow began last night and accumulated 1.6").  Winds from this storm gusted between 30 and 35 mph.  Temperatures in the morning held steady in the low 20s and then fell slowly during the afternoon, reaching 11° by midnight.  (In a similar fashion, two snowstorms of 9.2" and 12.8" occurred just three days apart in early February during the winter of 1994.)

 

Snowstorm in 1926

 

WINTER OF 1926-27

Dec. 5, 1926 - 7.9" of snow fell on a very cold day, which had a high/low of just 24/11.  Snow fell heaviest from 1PM until 7PM.  This was the biggest snowfall of the winter and was the snowiest 12/5 until 2003, when 8.0" fell.

 

WINTER OF 1928-29

Feb. 21, 1929 - More than half of the winter's 13.8" of snow fell today as eight inches accumulated between 5AM and 2PM.  Temperatures were in the low-to-mid-twenties during the storm.

 

WINTER OF 1932-33

Dec. 17, 1932 - Snow that began late in the morning continued through the early AM on 12/18 and amounted to 7.2".  It was also a very cold day, with a high/low of only 20/11.  (The snow was gone by Christmas Day, which had a high of 59°.)  The next measurable snowfall wouldn't be for another seven weeks (on 2/4).

Feb. 11, 1933 - In just eight hours (1-9:00 AM) ten inches of snow fell, the biggest snowstorm in seven years.  Sleet mixed in during the final few hours even though temperatures were in the low 20s.

 

Snow in new york 1933

 

WINTER OF 1933-34

Dec. 26, 1933 - A little more than 24 hours after temperatures were in the mid-50s, a snowstorm swept into the City shortly after daybreak and by early afternoon ten inches had fallen, and temperatures were in the mid-20s.  An additional inch of snow fell in the early evening, bringing the day's snowfall total to 11.2". (Much larger accumulations would later fall on this date in 1946 and 2010).

Feb. 25, 1934 - On a brutally cold day (high/low of 16/9) light snow began falling mid-afternoon and fell steadily thru the following afternoon, accumulating 9.3".  This was the third snowfall of 7.5" or more this month and brought February's total snowfall to 27.9" (the other major snowfalls were on 2/1 and 2/19-20).  At the time this was the second snowiest month on record (now ranked sixth) and the snowiest February (since topped by Feb. 2010 and 2014).

 

WINTER OF 1934-35

Jan. 22-23, 1935 - This was a two-stage storm.  On 1/22 precipitation began in the morning as rain which changed to snow around mid-day as the temperature fell from the low 40s into the upper 20s; five inches was measured.  Then after a 13-hour break, winds shifted from the northwest to northeast and heavy snow returned late on the morning of 1/23.  Between 1:00 and 7PM it fell at a rate of an inch or more per hour and accumulated nearly thirteen inches.  Flakes fell until the wee hours of the next day.  Temperatures fell slowly throughout the day, dropping from 26° to 18° (and they'd continue to fall slowly the following day).  This was the first snowstorm of a foot or more in nine years. 

 

Weather - winter-storm-1935 

 

WINTER OF 1935-36

Jan. 19, 1936 - A winter storm brought heavy snow, sleet and gusty winds.  After beginning as light rain late last night, nine inches of snow piled up in the morning (mostly between 3:00-9:00) and the afternoon saw an onslaught of sleet that was propelled by 25-35 mph winds, producing wind chills in the single digits (the air temperature was in the mid-20s).  The sleet accumulated 2.5".

 

Snow storm before 1950s

 

WINTER OF 1937-38

April 6-9, 1938 - This was a sloppy four days of weather, with 6.4" of snow falling on April 6 and 7 (the biggest snowfall of the winter) and 0.95" of rain on April 8 and 9.  During these days temperatures were mostly in the 30s.  The low of 28° on 4/6 was the only April day in the 1930s with a low in the 20s.

 

WINTER OF 1938-39

Nov. 27, 1938 - Just six weeks after the latest 90-degree reading on record, back-to-back snowstorms dropped nearly 13 inches of snow in four days.  The first, on 11/24-25  measured 8.8" (3.9" on Thanksgiving Day, 4.9" the day after) while the snowfall that ended before dawn today (and began late last night) brought an additional four inches.  The high/low during these four days was 32/20, which was 18 degrees below average.  This was the snowiest month of the winter and the third snowiest November on record (after Nov. 1898 and 1882).

Jan. 13, 1939 - Beginning mid-afternoon, a snowfall of 8.8" (1.0" fell on 1/14) tied the Thanksgiving snowstorm of 11/24-25 as the biggest snowfall of the season.

 

WINTER OF 1939-40

Feb. 14, 1940 - It was a wintry day, as wind-blown sleet and snow fell throughout the day, accumulating 7.7" (an additional 1.3" fell overnight).  Late in the morning winds gusted to 50 mph.  Temperatures fell slowly, from the low-30s in the morning to low-20s by midnight.

 

WINTER OF 1940-41

March 8, 1941 - A fierce winter storm that began late last night brought heavy snow, sleet and high winds during the morning.  By 11AM 18.1" of snow had fallen (15.7" of it fell today); the precipitation then changed to light drizzle in the afternoon (the day's high was 33°).  At the time this tied with a snowstorm in January 1935 as New York's second biggest snowfall (it's now ranked tenth).

 

Weather.1941marchsnowstorm

 

WINTER OF 1942-43

Jan. 28, 1943 - The winter's nastiest storm dropped 7.1" of snow and sleet, which was accompanied by northeasterly winds that gusted to 34 mph.  Precipitation began at daybreak and continued through early evening.

 

WINTER OF 1943-44

April 5, 1944 - Four days before Easter Sunday a late season snowstorm dumped 6.5".  Beginning as rain a little after midnight, it changed to snow around 2AM and mixed with sleet around lunchtime before ending in mid-afternoon.  The snow came down heaviest between 3-5AM when three inches accumulated.  The day's high/low was 34/29.

 

WINTER OF 1945-46

Dec. 19, 1945 - An afternoon/evening snowstorm dropped 8.3" (all but 0.3" fell today).  This would be the biggest snowfall of the winter (and since March 1941).  Besides the snow, temperatures were also quite cold, with a high/low of just 23/20 (fifteen degrees below average).

 

WINTER OF 1946-47

Feb. 21, 1947 - Snow that began yesterday evening (accumulating 4.2" by midnight) continued through this morning and piled up an additional 6.5".  This 10.7" snowfall was the biggest in six years.  Temperatures were very cold, with a high/low of 24/14, sixteen degrees below average.

 

Nyc snow fort 1940s 

 

WINTER OF 1947-48

Dec. 26, 1947 - Snow began falling around 3:30 AM on the 26th and fell steadily all day, at times at a rate of two inches per hour (the forecast at daybreak called for a five-inch accumulation).  Winds gusted as high as 36 mph during the evening and temperatures hovered around 29° for much of the storm.  By midnight 25.5" had piled up and an additional 0.9" fell after midnight, breaking the previous snowfall record of 21" set by the great blizzard of March 1888; it would remain the City's greatest snowfall of all time until 26.9" fell in February 2006 (it now ranks third).  This storm came three days after a snowfall of 2.5".

 

Blizzard of 1947-time magazine

 

WINTER OF 1948-49

Dec. 19, 1948 - One year after the record-setting 26.4" snowstorm of Dec. 26 another formidable snowstorm crippled the City with 16.0".  At the time this was the shortest length of time between major snowstorms.  Since then there have been seven pairs of major snowstorms (of one foot or more) that have occurred with less than 12 months in between (the shortest time between being four weeks in January and February 1978.)

 

Weather - 1948 snowstorm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Very Wet 2018 Ends With Wet December

Rainy times square

 

2018 was New York's fourth wettest year on record (third if the disputed 1983 is excluded) and the final month of the year followed that theme.  December was the year's fifth month with six inches or more of precipitation (all of them occurring in the second half of the year).  The month ended with the wettest New Year's Eve since 1948, and for the first time since 1994 rain fell during the ball drop in Times Square (pictured).  Most of the month's 6.51" of rain (the ninth wettest December on record) fell after 12/13.  This followed a ten-day dry spell, which was the longest in more than a year.  Four days had an inch or more of rain, all in the second half of the month. 

 

December was 2.6 degrees milder than average.  The month started out colder than average, with Dec. 1-13 averaging three degrees below average, then a shift occurred and the rest of the month was nearly six degrees above average.  The final twelve days of the month all had above average temperatures (as did sixteen of the last eighteen).  The range in temperatures was rather narrow, from 24° to 61° (the coldest reading in December is typically in the upper teens while the mildest reading is in the low 60s).

 

November 2018 was snowier and had colder readings than December (two days had lows in the teens).  Typically December is ten degrees colder than November but this year it was only four degrees colder.  Just ten other Decembers have been closer to November's average temperature.

 

Chart - nov vs dec

 

After 6.4" of snow fell in November (all on 11/15) there was just a trace of snow in December.  This was the twentieth December on record with a trace of snow or less (nine of them have been in the past 25 years).  And it joined a handful of Decembers with much less snow than November. 

 

Chart - Dec vs Nov Snow

 

Finally, December had the same average temperature as March (40.1°).  December is typically about five degrees colder.  However, while the overall temperature was the same as March's, December's average high was about a degree colder than March while its average low was about one degree milder.  And while both month's had above average precipitation, March was much snowier, with 11.6" measured.

 

Chart - nov vs dec

Other December recaps:

2017

2016

2015

 


Longest Streaks of High Temperatures of 32 Degrees or Colder

Iceage

 

Since the winter of 1940 there have been ten streaks of ten days or longer with high temperatures that were 32° or colder (streaks of this length occur, on average, once every eight years).  The most recent, a streak of fourteen days, occurred in the winter of 2017-18 (Dec. 26 thru Jan. 8).  It was the third longest on record, behind a sixteen-day streak in the winter of 1961, and a fifteen-day streak in the winter of 1881.  This winter's streak closely mirrored one during the winter of 2001 that also started in December and ended in January.  (However, it's temperatures weren't as cold and was one day shorter.)  What follows are some other interesting observations about New York's longest cold streaks (nine days or longer):

 

  • As mentioned above, the longest streak came in the winter of 1961 when the City shivered through sixteen days in a row of sub-freezing highs from Jan. 19 thru Feb. 3.  The "warmest" temperature during this time frame was 29°.  It would be seventeen years before another streak of ten days or longer occurred.
  • No winter has had two of these lengthy streaks, but 1958 had one in February of twelve days and a ten-day streak in December.  Additionally, there have been numerous winters with two or more smaller streaks of four, five or six days.
  • The earliest of the streaks occurred at the beginning of the winter of 1957-58 when there was a ten-day streak from Dec. 7 to 16.  The latest streaks were in February 1958 (Feb. 8-19) and February 1979 (Feb. 9-19).  What was remarkable about the 1979 streak was the fact that, not only was it late in the winter, but it had the most days with lows in the single digits - eight.  It followed closely behind a nine-day streak in January 1968 as the coldest of the cold waves; Feb. 1979, however, had the coldest average high (20.5) while Jan. 1968 had the coldest average low (6.4).
  • There were extended streaks in the consecutive winters of 1977, 1978 and 1979 (and there was one in 1981).  1977's streak was book-ended by smaller streaks of five days before (broken up a day with a high of 41°) and four days after (broken up by a day with a high of 36°).  In total, 18 of the 20 days between Jan. 5-24 saw highs at freezing or below.  There was also another cluster of winters with lengthy cold waves, during the winters of 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005.
  • Thirteen of the seventeen streaks of nine days or longer saw some mornings with lows in the single digits or colder (three had sub-zero readings).
  • Three of the streaks of nine days or longer had snowstorms of 12 inches or more. 1961's cold wave nearly had two snowstorms but two-thirds of the 17.4" accumulation from the snowstorm on Feb. 3-4 fell on the day when the 16-day streak ended as the high reached 34°.  

 

Chart - snowstorms during cold waves

 

  • The 13-day steak during the winter of 2000-01 had the highest mean temperature. 

 

 Chart - Longest Cold Streaks in NYC

 


December Weather Recap - 2017 Ends With Harsh Cold Wave

Frigid new years eve in times squareAlthough 2017 featured two months, February and October, that were the warmest on record, the year may be best remembered for December's Arctic outbreak that moved in on Christmas Day and stayed locked in place through the first week of 2018.  On Dec. 28 the high/low of 18/11 made it the coldest day of the year (based on mean temperature), followed on Dec. 31 by the coldest temperature of the year, when the mercury fell to shortly before the ball-drop in Times Square.  The last five days of the month had highs of 25° or colder, the first streak of this length since January 2004.  Here are some other observations:

 

  • The first six days of December were six degrees above average while the final six days were 15 degrees below average.  Overall the month was 2.5 degrees colder than average and was the coldest December in seven years (and the third coldest in 20 years).  Until the Arctic front moved through on Christmas Day the month had close to average temperatures.
  • For the first time since 2002 December was the coldest month of the year, just the 15th time since 1900 that this has happened.  
  • The month had 2.21" of precipitation, joining three other months in 2017 with less than 2.50" of precipitation.  This was the driest December since 2006 (when 2.15" was measured).  The biggest rainfall, 0.75", was on Dec. 5, pouring down that night.  This was also the mildest day of the month, with a high/low of 61/50.
  • Measurable snow fell on four days, totaling 7.7".  The first snowfall, on Dec. 9, was the biggest, with 4.6" measured.
  • In addition to the Arctic outbreak at the end of the month, there was a cold snap mid-month that had three days in a row with highs of 32° or colder (Dec. 13-15).  During this outbreak there were two 1.2" snowfalls on consecutive days (Dec. 14 and 15).
  • The month's nine days with highs of 32° or colder was the most in December since 2000 (which, like this December, ended with an extended Arctic outbreak, the second longest on record, that lasted 13 days, from Dec. 22 to Jan. 3).
  • The six-day streak with highs of 32° or colder is behind eight streaks in December of seven days or longer.

 

December Cold Streaks

  • Finally, the high of 18° on Dec. 28 was just the fifth time since 1960 that there was a high in the teens in December.

 

Coldest december high temps

Here are other December recaps:

December 2016

December 2015 

 

 


The Magic & Beauty of the Season's First Snowfall

Washington square at night in snowOftentimes the first snowfall of the winter is inconsequential, e.g., since 1970 half of first snowfalls have been less than an inch.  Occasionally, however, the first snowfall produces a significant accumulation and transforms the City into a breathtaking winter wonderland.  Such was the case with the first snowfall of the winter of 2017-18 when 4.6" fell on Dec. 9.  What made it extra special was the fact that it fell over the weekend and during the run-up to Christmas.  Every year I think I won't traipse around in the snow taking countless photos, because how different can they be from previous snowfalls of previous winters?  Yet I can't resist the ineffable drawing power of snow, as shown in the photo gallery below.

  

 

Washington square park6
Washington Square Park

 

Tree tops in snow
A curtain of white, looking south on Sixth Ave. in Greenwich Village

 

Redandgreen
Traffic lights, with their green & red lights, serve as giant ornaments at Christmastime, even more so during a snowfall

 

Wash square park1
Washington Square Park

 

Wash park xmas tree
A view of the Washington Square Christmas tree seen through Ai Weiwei's art installation (thru Feb. 2018), titled "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors"

 

Wrought iron covered with snow
Snow has a softening effect on wrought iron fences

 

Wash square park3
Because Washington Square Park is just two blocks from my apartment  it's often where I start my picture taking

 

Snowflakes and flag
Giant illuminated snowflakes on Varick Street looked a little less out of place

 

Snow and lamplight
Brings to mind an illustration by Currier & Ives

  

Father demo square
White lights form a tree over the fountain in Father Demo Square (corner of Bleecker St. and Sixth Ave.)

 

Washington square xmas tree
The snow-laden Christmas tree in Washington Square Park

 

North square
North Square Restaurant sits on the northwest corner of Washington Square Park

 

Barrow street-first snow
A streetlight illuminates tree branches laden with snow and leaves (Barrow St.)


 

Photo Gallery from Winter 2017