It might be September but it still feels like the height of summer for much of the Eastern U.S., this week, including Washington, D.C., which is pushing 50 days with highs at or above 90 degrees this year. (Ugh.)
This morning we asked you, “who’s ready for fall?” and the answer was a resounding “we all are.” However, many wanted to skip straight past the season of colorful autumn leaves, pumpkin spice lattes and apple pie, and head straight to what most sane people consider to be the worst season of all — winter.
So, for those of you who are sick of summer and aching to see the first, cool snowflake fall from the sky, here’s when you might expect it in a totally average year.
Average date of first snowfall for a few U.S. cities:
Boston — Nov. 28
New York City — Dec. 14
Philadelphia — Dec. 21
Washington, D.C. — Dec. 21
Raleigh, N.C. — Jan. 5
Atlanta — Jan. 17
Cleveland — Nov. 11
Detroit — Oct. 12
Chicago — Nov. 19
Minneapolis — Nov. 6
Fargo, N.D. — Nov. 1
Denver — Oct. 14
Billings — Oct. 18
St. Louis — Nov. 30
Oklahoma City — Dec. 15
Dallas — Dec. 25
Of course, there’s no such thing as a totally average year, and this year has the added benefit (misfortune?) of the very strong El Niño in the tropical Pacific, which can alter our U.S. winters in various ways. In general, it tends to reduce snowfall and increase average temperatures across much of the continental U.S., or at least the areas that are most prone to winter storms.
[What history shows about strong El Niño winters in Washington, D.C.]
But there’s always a lot at play in the atmosphere, and we won’t really know what kind of winter’s in store until we see just how strong El Niño gets, and what that polar jet stream will do this year. Assuming El Nino can deliver higher than average moisture to the southern half of the U.S., we’d only need a couple of shots of Arctic air to deliver average or even above average snowfall.
Take the very strong El Niño of 1982-1983, for example. “There were long snowless stretches,” writes Jason Samenow, “but the winter delivered an impressive seasonal snow total of nearly 40 inches thanks to big storms in December and February.”
But on the other side of the fence, the record-breaking 1997-1998 El Niño was a snowless dud and ended much warmer than average. Washington, D.C., ended that winter with just 0.1 inches of snow — the least snowy year on record.
h/t Dennis Mersereau at Gawker who crunched the NOAA data last year
double h/t to Joe Heim because his pure summer hatred inspired this post