New Yorkers are aware that they may not have a white Christmas every year, but by the end of January, the city typically has enough snow for sledding and snowball fights. However, this winter has been different. It’s been 50 years since the city has waited this long for the first measurable snowfall of the season, tying a record. This absence has left residents feeling grateful, wistful, and worried all at once. Rachel Reuben, a private chef, is pleased that she hasn’t seen measurable snow in New York City over the past 325 days.
According to meteorologists, the city is close to reaching two snow-related milestones. New York City will likely set a record for the latest first measurable snow of the winter, beating January 29, 1973. And less than a week later, the city could surpass its longest streak of consecutive days without measurable snow, currently standing at 322 days as of December 15, 2020. The last time it snowed was March 22nd. Although Reuben enjoys the snow-free weather, the 66-year-old can’t help but feel uneasy. “If it’s a sign of climate change, then it’s not a happy thing,” she says.
New York City usually sees snow by mid-December, but this year, the city is more than a month behind its average pace. Meteorologists say that conditions were already in place for a relatively warm start to the winter, due in part to a La Niña that has now lasted three consecutive years.
This winter’s extreme variation can be seen in upstate New York. Syracuse, known for being one of America’s snowiest cities with an average of more than 120 inches of snow annually, has only received 25 inches this winter, putting it three feet behind the norm for the season. Meanwhile, nearby Rochester has received fewer than 15 inches, compared to its typical 50 inches by this time. However, to the west of both cities, Buffalo is experiencing one of its snowiest winters, with around half of this season’s snow falling during a single deadly blizzard.