New York City nears record-late first snowfall

  • New York City has yet to pick up its first measurable snow this season.
  • That’s almost a record-long wait that ended 50 years ago at the end of January 1973.
  • Chances are that just enough snow will qualify as measurable snow this week.
  • The snowiest month of the year is yet to come along the I-95 corridor.

New York City could finally see its first measurable snow of 2022-23 this week, in what would be their longest wait for the first snowfall of the season in 50 years.

As of January 22, New York City’s Central Park has recorded only a trace of snow since the fall. That’s over 11 inches less than the average snowfall for the season to date.

That’s despite two more recent storms, dubbed Winter Storms Iggy and Jimenez by The Weather Channel, each dropping significant snow in the inner Northeast but only rain in New York City.

On Wednesday, another winter storm named Kassandra will move to the northeast. This time, the frigid air could linger for at least a few hours as precipitation falls as snow in New York City on Wednesday before turning to rain.

(MORE: Hourly forecast of New York City)

Unless Wednesday’s storm can push out just 0.1 inches of snowfall, it could be several days before the next chance of snow.

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Snow and rain outlook

(This is a rain and snow forecast from now through Sunday, January 29, the day of the youngest first measurable snowfall of the season in New York’s Central Park.)

And that could flirt with an all-time snow shortage record.

New York City’s last first snow of the season occurred 50 years ago while Central Park waited until January 29, 1973.

The first measurable snow (at least 0.1 inch) usually falls in the city in mid-December. Last season, the first measurable dusting came on Christmas Eve.

But waiting until January is not unprecedented.

It’s the 15th time since 1869 that Central Park didn’t record any measurable snow in December. That was last the case seven years ago, when the first muddy accumulations of the season occurred on January 17, 2016.

The lack of snow isn’t limited to New York City.

Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC are also waiting for the first measurable snow of the season. Philadelphia is nearing its record-long wait for this season’s premiere – February 3, 1995 – while both Baltimore and Washington DC previously waited until February 21 and February 23, respectively, also in 1973.

Snowfall of the 2022/23 season to date (in inches) from the time of the first snow of the season to January 22, 2023.

Why the lack of snow?

The weather pattern since fall has been most favorable for snow from the west to the Northern Plains.

More specifically, low-pressure systems have most commonly plowed into the West Coast, intensified in the High Plains of the Rockies, and then invaded the northern Great Lakes or eastern Canada. This is a pattern typical of late fall or spring that channels winter storms through the Dakotas or nearby areas.

Meanwhile, eastern Canada and the Northeast are experiencing persistent high pressure, keeping much of that area warmer than average.

Anomaly in the upper weather pattern over the US and Canada from October 1, 2022 to January 20, 2023. Areas of sustained lower air pressure are highlighted by the “L” and blue outlines over the West and Plains. Areas of higher pressure are highlighted by the “H” and green, yellow, and orange outlines over eastern Canada and the Northeast.

(Original Analysis: NOAA/PSL)

The three-month period ended January 22 was among the warmest periods from late October to late January on record in the Northeast and New England, according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center.

When cold air swept the Northeast, it lashed across the Great Lakes, producing two rounds of fertile lake-effect snow in late November and December in Buffalo and Watertown, New York.

And as we mentioned, recent storm tracks have brought snow to the interior Northeast but pulled warm air into the Interstate 95 Northeast Urban Corridor, resulting in rain.

The snowiest month is yet to come

Despite this rather snowless scenario, it’s far too early to announce the rest of the snow season as duds.

First, some colder air is expected to flow into the Northeast next week as the calendar shifts to February.

All other factors being equal, that could be the difference between recent wet systems and storms producing at least light snowfall in the snow-poor I-95 corridor.

(‚ÄčMORE: February-April Temperature Outlook)

That also agrees with the February story.

The snowiest month on average in New York City is February (10.1 inches). This usually coincides with the historical peak of large snowstorms in the Northeast in late January through February.

Typically, Central Park receives two-thirds of its snowfall after January 22nd. That equates to just under 19 inches if the rest of the season was average.

This graph shows how much of Central Park’s seasonal snowfall has been lost through January 22, 2023 (annotated with brown text) compared to how much normally falls after January 22 (annotated with blue text).

(Original graphic: NOAA/ACIS)

As previously mentioned, 2016 was the last time New York City waited until January for the first measurable snow of the season.

Less than a week after that late-arriving first snow, Winter Storm Jonas struck the East Coast, a record-breaking snowstorm in New York City and several other cities.

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This visible satellite image, taken on Sunday, January 24, 2016, shows a blanket of snow left by Winter Storm Jonas in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

(NASA)

That doesn’t mean there won’t be another Jonas this season, but it does show how quickly a quiet snow season can change. Whether a snowier pattern will set in later in February or March remains uncertain.

So if you dread shoveling or driving in the snow, enjoy this prolonged lack of it while you can.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science in our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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