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New York City's snow drought nears all-time record

By John Murphy, Accuweather.com
A pedestrian crosses an intersection as steam is released on the streets of New York City in December. While the city has seen precipitation this winter, it has primarily come in the form of rain instead of snow due to abnormally warm temperatures. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A pedestrian crosses an intersection as steam is released on the streets of New York City in December. While the city has seen precipitation this winter, it has primarily come in the form of rain instead of snow due to abnormally warm temperatures. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

A snowless Christmas and a rainy New Year's -- something more typical of Miami -- has instead become a reality in New York City this winter season.

The Big Apple is just days away from breaking a record that might seem unimaginable: the latest date to see measurable snowfall in recorded history. While the city has seen precipitation since the winter season officially began, it has primarily come in the form of rain instead of snow due to abnormally warm temperatures. At the official weather station in New York City's Central Park, no measurable snow has been recorded this winter, only flurries.

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On Nov. 7, the weather was far from typical in the city as temperatures soared to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, a remarkable 20 degrees above average for the date. Temperatures remained higher than usual far beyond that date, with New York City failing to dip below 40 until Nov. 14, which is several weeks out from the average of Oct. 22.

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Plenty of rain fell on the city throughout the month of November. Still, not even a trace of snow was recorded as the calendar flipped from Thanksgiving celebrations to the winter holidays in December.

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"It's not from a lack of storms," said AccuWeather senior meteorologist David Dombek. "It's not like we've been in just a dry weather pattern and we can't get a raindrop or anything to fall out of the sky. It's actually been a pretty moist and pretty active weather pattern, we just haven't had the cold air."

Overall precipitation for the month of December was more than 2 inches above average, but the vast majority of that fell as rain instead of snow. Temperatures on New Year's Eve maxed out nearly 15 degrees above average, and instead of Times Square spectators bundling up as usual, those in attendance for the annual festivities faced spring-like weather with rain and temperatures in the mid-50s, one of the warmest New Year's Eve celebrations ever recorded there.

While the city has gotten cold enough for snow throughout this winter season and some flurries have been spotted, the most the city has recorded at its official location in Central Park is a trace of snow, which occurred as recently as Jan. 14.

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But a trace amount of snow does not count as measurable snowfall, which brings New York City to 319 days in a snow drought as of Monday, the third-longest snowless streak on record for the city. The longest snowless streak lasted 332 days and ended on Dec. 15, 2020.

New York City is also nearing the record for the longest stretch into the snow season without seeing more than a trace of snow. The latest date on record was Jan. 29, 1973. The 2022-23 season stands in second place after outlasting 1871, a year when snow was not measured until Jan. 21.

Whether the drought continues depends on how things shake up this week. The next chance for measurable snowfall is Wednesday.

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The storm on Wednesday will deliver snow across the interior Northeast, but uncertainty remains whether the precipitation for New York City will come as rain or snow. Forecasters say cold, dry air will be in place during the first half of the week and that the placement of a high-pressure system will be key to the ultimate expanse of snow with this storm.

"If we don't [get snow] Wednesday, then I think we have to go all the way to maybe late Sunday or Sunday night, and even then, it might just be mostly rain ... the only game in town here is Wednesday, if we don't do it then, then [we're] going to go another several-day stretch without anything measurable," said Dombek.

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Snow or not, New York City will remain significantly below average for season-to-date snowfall into next week, barring a blockbuster event. From Dec. 1 through Jan. 18, the city typically sees 9.4 inches of snow and last year that value was 6.8 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The NYC Department of Sanitation had a $7.6 million increase in their snow removal budget this year, so they could have a surplus. But then again, winter's not over yet.

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