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December Weather Recap - 2017 Ends With Harsh Cold Wave


Frigid new years eve in times square



Although 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 9° 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 12/9, 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


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

Photo Gallery: Snowfalls of Winter 2017

Feb9 hedges (2)

Taking a break from weather statistics and analyses, here's a gallery of this winter's snowfalls in New York as captured through the lens of my smartphone. (There have been eight snowfalls thru mid-March - oops, I slipped a statistic in there!) 


Dec11 first snow
0.4" of snow fell the evening of Dec. 11


Dec11 snow by streetlight
Snow in lamp light on Barrow St. (Dec. 4)


Dec17 boot n slush
Nearly 3" of snow fell the morning of Dec. 17.  This photo shows the slush that resulted when the temperature rose into the upper 30s during the afternoon.


1christmas 2016
Dec. 17, Hudson St. (Greenwich Village)


Jan7 greenwich village snow
5.1" of snow fell on Saturday, Jan. 7. These apartment buildings are on West 10th St., off of Seventh Ave. South.


Jan7 sheridan square
Of all the photos chosen for this post, this one of famed Village Cigar may be my favorite


Jan7 snowy seventh ave south
Looking north on 7th Ave. South from the  second floor of my gym (Jan. 7)


Jan7 snow covered car
I found the white & gray of the snow & steel on this parked on Washington Place aesthetically pleasing (Jan. 7)


Jan7 snowy steps
West 23rd St. (evening of Jan. 7)


Jan7 snowy night
The park on the corner of 7th Ave. and Greenwich Ave. (Jan. 7)


Jan7 snowy door
This is the front door of my apartment building (Jan. 7)


Jan14 dusting of snow
Two days after a record high of 66 degrees, afternoon temperatures on Jan. 14 were below freezing and about an inch of snow fell.  This photo was taken at Sheridan Square Park.


Jan14 snowcovered balloons
Snow-covered balloons outside of my gym (Jan. 14)


Geese foraging in Hudson River Park (Jan. 15)


Jan15 wintry sunset
Wintry sunset at Bloomfield Place in lower Manhattan (Jan. 15)


Jan31 snowy lexington and 42nd st
An inch of snow fell late in the morning of Jan 31. This photo (looking at the Grand Hyatt) was taken near the corner of Lexington Ave. and 42nd St.
Feb9  washington place (1)
9.4" of snow fell the morning of Feb. 9, the day after a high of 62 degrees. I took this photo as I was walking to the subway.


Feb9 washington place
This was the sight that greeted me when I stepped out of my apartment building on Washington Place
Feb9 jefferson library (1)
The clock tower of Jefferson Market Library on Sixth Ave. in Greenwich Village.  Visibility for much of the morning was less than 1/4 mile (Feb. 9).


Feb9 hedges (1)
In front of the NY Public Library on Fifth Ave. (10AM on Feb. 9)
Feb9 patience and fortitude (1)
Profiles of famed lions, Patience and Fortitude, who guard the NY Public Library (Feb. 9)


Feb9 chrysler building
The obscured Chrysler Building, looking east on 42nd St./Fifth Ave. (Feb. 9)
Feb9 patience and fortitude (2)
On a snowy day like this it's more appropriate to call this a "Trudge" sign (Feb. 9)


Feb9 blue umbrella
Corner of Madison & 42nd St. (Feb. 9)


Feb9 near office (2)
At the height of the snowstorm's fury (Feb. 9)
Feb9 capital grille
Steakhouse across the street from my office building (150 E. 42nd St.)
Feb9 near office (1)
Lunchtime, Lexington Ave. near the corner of 42nd St. (Feb. 9)


Feb9 slush as modern art
Slush & snowmelt at sidewalk's edge on Lexington Ave. brings to mind modern art (Feb. 9).


Feb9 snow drift
Snowdrifts in Greenwich Village, night of Feb. 9 (Sheridan Square Park, along Christopher St.)


March14 patio
Tribeca patios prepared for evening cocktails (March 14)


Fiorello laguardia
Snow-covered statue of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village (March 14)


December 2016 Weather Recap - The Streak Continues ...

1christmas 2016After last year's extraordinarily mild December, the warmest on record by a wide margin (13.3 degrees above average), December 2016 fell back to earth, 0.8 degrees above average.  Through 12/21 the month was two degrees colder than average, but then the jet stream reversed itself and temperatures were seven degrees above average during the last ten days of the month, pushing the month into the above-average column - the eighteenth month in a row with above average temperatures.  With every month of 2016 experiencing above average temperatures, it was no surprise that the year was one of the mildest on record, ranking fourth (joining 2015, 2012 and 2010 in the top 10).  Here are a few other observations:


  • Wintry conditions took hold from 12/9-12/20, with temperatures five degrees below average.  This included the winter's first measurable snowfall (0.4" during the evening of 12/11) and first snowfall of one-inch or more (2.8" during the evening of 12/17).  Two days had highs below freezing (and four other days had highs between 33° and 35°).  And the low of 17° on 12/16 was the coldest reading in December in seven years.  That day's high/low of 27/17 made it one of the five coldest days of the entire year.  And while last December was the first to have no reading of 32° or colder, this December had 11 such days (which is fairly typical).


First snow


  • Heading into the last week of the month it looked like this might be the first December since 2005 to have no temperatures in the 60s, but then the high reached 60° on 12/27.
  • After having the wettest November in ten years (5.41"), December reversed course and was the driest in ten years (2.89").  Despite this below average amount measurable precipitation fell on twelve days.  For the second year in a row the year's total precipitation was well below average (42.17" vs. the average of 49.94"; 2015 had 1.20" less precipitation than this year).  The last time there were comparable back-to-back dry years was in 1985 and 1986.


Warmest years in new york
















December 2015 Weather Recap - El Niño on Steroids

To sum up December 2015's weather in one word - "WOW"!




As you may recall, November 2015 was New York's mildest on record, edging out November 2001 by 0.1 degree.  In December, 2015 once again beat out 2001 as mildest ever, but this time it was by a wide margin - 6.7 degrees.  Never before has a warmest/coldest month been that far ahead of the second ranked month.  (The previous greatest margin between the top two was 2.8 degrees, February 1934 vs. 1899.)  December 2015 was consistently mild throughout the month and was 13.3 degrees above average - the most above average of any month on record.  In fact, it wasn't much cooler than the record-mild November and was 3.1 degrees milder than a typical November.  Every day of the month had an above average mean daily temperature - the only month in which this has ever occurred.  The chilliest day was 12/19, when the mean temperature was two degrees above average (high/low of 40°/35°). 




No day in December had a temperature of 32° or colder - a first for December (the coldest reading was 34°).  Previously, the mildest daily minimum temperature in December was 28°.  18 days had mean temperatures that were 10+ degrees above average; 13 were 15+ degrees above average, and seven were 20+ degrees above average.  There was one streak of nine days with mean temperatures 10+ degrees above average - only a ten-day streak in December 1998 was longer.  11 days had highs of 60° or warmer, another December record.  The high of 72° on 12/24 was the tenth time NYC had a high in the 70s in December.  And the low that day was the mildest ever reported in December, 63° (13 degrees above that day's previous record).  Christmas Eve's mean temperature was 33 degrees above average - the most above average day on record.  All told, the month saw four new record highs (and one tied a record) and five record-high minimums (and two ties).  




December was the third month in 2015 that was warmest ever.  Additionally, May and August were second and third warmest, respectively.  These warm months almost completely overshadowed February, which was the second coldest since 1900.  (Remember the frozen fountain in Bryant Park, or the ice-clogged Hudson River at month's end?)







When March is Colder Than December



Typically, 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.  (UPDATE: This is no longer the case as March 2015 was also colder than the December preceding it.)  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 Marches 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

Winter Festival: A Celebration of Snow As Portrayed by Covers of The New Yorker

The-new-yorker-logo.jpgBefore it turns to slush, newly-fallen snow in New York brings a blanket of serenity even to the great metropolis.  And wintertime covers of The New Yorker perfectly capture the ineffable beauty of the season.  Here are a few dozen of my favorites (captions are mine) ...


New Yorker Jan 29 1927
Snowstorm Meets Roaring Twenties (Jan. 29, 1927)


Snow Beautiful (Jan. 16, 1932)


Wintry Tableau (Feb. 27, 1937)


Little Siberia (Feb. 2, 1946)


The Excitement Builds (Jan. 21, 1950)


Eager Anticipation (Jan. 20, 1951)


Sisyphus In Winter (Jan. 7, 1956)


Hibernation, Manhattan Style (Jan. 21, 1956)


Manhattan on Ice (March 2, 1957)


Polar Express (Jan. 11, 1958)



Flight Delay (Jan 8, 1966)


Old Man Winter's Calling Card (Jan. 7, 1967)


Veil of White (March 2, 1968)


Mantle of White (Jan. 4, 1969)


A Cold Winter's Night That Was So Deep (Jan. 22, 1979)


In Winter's Grip (Jan. 7 1974)


Cozy Inside (Jan. 12, 1976)


Travel Advisory (Feb. 7, 1977)


Snow Day (Jan. 29, 1979)


Serenity (Jan. 26, 1981)


Rush in Slush (Dec. 13, 1982)


Neither Sleet nor Snow ... (Feb. 16, 1987)


Winter Gridlock (Jan. 28, 1991)


Cold Comfort (March 6, 1995)


Fashion Statement (March 1, 2010)


Cold Reality (Dec. 20, 2010)


50 Shades of Gray (Jan. 23, 2012)


Double Duty (March 10, 2014)



New yorker - december 22 2014

 New yorker - flat iron building - march 9 2015


I've written a similar post about my favorite summertime covers.  Large reproductions of these covers, as well as every New Yorker cover (nearly 5,000), are available for purchase on Conde Nast's website.  (And small versions are sold by street vendors throughout midtown Manhattan.)


Snowfall Analysis: New York's Snowiest Consecutive Months



The snow that piled up in New York during the winter of 2014 made it one of the ten snowiest on record (going back to 1869).  The bulk of the 57 inches fell in January (19.7") and February (28.8").  Their combined total of 48.5" is the second greatest amount of snow to fall in back-to-back months.  Only the winter of 2011 had a combo with more as December picked up 20.1" and January saw 36.0". 


Three of the winters found on the chart below had 20" or more of snow for both of the months: Jan/Feb 1978, Jan/Feb 1996 and Dec 2010/Jan 2011.  And three winters make two appearances: 1996, 2010 and 2011.  (If March 2014 sees nine inches or more it will also have two slots on the list.)


(Since 1869)
 Months 1st Month 2nd Month Combined
Dec 2010/Jan 2011 20.1" 36.0" 56.1"
Jan/Feb 2014 19.7" 28.8" 48.5"
Jan/Feb 1996 26.1" 21.2" 47.3"
Dec 1947/Jan 1948 29.6" 15.3" 44.9"
Jan/Feb 1978 20.3" 23.0" 43.3"
Jan/Feb 1923 24.5" 18.8" 43.3"
Feb/Mar 1967 23.6" 17.4" 41.0"
Feb/Mar 2011 36.0" 4.8" 40.8"
Dec 1904/Jan 1905 21.6" 18.4" 40.0"
Feb/Mar 1896 9.5" 30.5" 40.0"
Jan/Feb 2010 2.1" 36.9" 39.0"
Feb/Mar 1914 17.4" 21.5" 38.9"
Jan/Feb 1994 12.0" 26.4" 38.4"
Dec/Jan 1996 11.5" 26.1" 37.6"
Dec/Jan 1893 27.0" 10.6" 37.6"
Dec 2003/Jan 2004 19.8" 17.3" 37.1"
(Analysis of data from www.NWS.NOAA.gov)

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. 







Frost-Free Winter Days: A History (1970 - 2020)



During a typical winter (Dec. 1-Feb. 28/29), one-third of the days have temperatures that stay above freezing for the entire day.  (Some might be surprised to learn that there are nearly twice as many frost-free days as there are days at freezing or colder - 34 vs. 18).  There have been as few as 15 of these "January thaw" days (winter of 1970) and as many as 58 (winters of 1998 and 2012). 


Since 1970 there have been 29 streaks of frost-free days that lasted 10 days or longer; half of the winters have had at least one; seven had two (the most recent was the winter of 2016-17).  The longest lasted 34 days during the winter of 2015-16, lasting from Dec. 1 thru Jan. 3; there was also one of 31 days in the winter of 2006-07, between Dec. 10 and Jan. 9.  December 2015 also had an eighteen-day steak in which the temperature never fell below 45°, and an eight-day streak in which the temperature never fell below 50°.



  Chart - frost free days