What Are Winter Extremes?

Astronomically speaking, the winter season officially begins December 21. The first day of meteorological winter is December 1. However, we all know that in reality, winter weather can strike as early as October in Upstate New York.

Our winter weather is defined by cold and snow through the months of December, January and February. Temperatures in the single digits and teens become commonplace in the heart of winter. Snow becomes a part of the landscape.

But what about winter extremes? It’s always newsworthy when wind chills drop to 15 below or when 18 inches of snow falls overnight. This can wreak havoc on our daily routines, especially when delays and closings are issued.

While this is certainly an inconvenience, the numbers above don’t even come close to the records for cold and snow in Syracuse.

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Syracuse is -26 degrees. Believe it or not, there have been three occurrences of this all-time record low. December 20, 1942, January 26, 1966 and February 18, 1979.

To give you some perspective on this, with an actual air temperature of -26 degrees and a breeze of just 5 mph, the wind chill or “feels like temperature” drops to -40! Let’s say the breeze picks up to 10 mph, which isn’t much of a breeze at all. Now you’re talking about running the risk of developing frostbite in as little as 10 minutes.

While -26 degrees is impressive, so is another record in Syracuse; the record for the coldest high temperature. On December 29, 1933 the high temperature only reached -7 degrees. That means we spent the entire day with sub-zero temperatures.

These arctic conditions can be dangerous but the snow typically proves to be more problematic, especially when there’s a lot of it.

The record for the highest snowfall amount on any given calendar day in Syracuse is 34 inches. A mere 2 inches shy of 3 feet. This record was set on February 15, 1946.

For those of us that don’t particularly enjoy winter’s wrath, February can be a tough month to get through as we anticipate the arrival of spring. Unfortunately, the records show that even late in the winter season, Mother Nature is still capable of dishing out extremes when it comes to the cold and snow.​