New England is one of those cold places in America. We get a bit spoiled in Cranberry County (SE Massachusetts), as our lows aren’t as low as they get further inland. We’re actually the balmy part of New England, which I doubt is of any great comfort to you.
New Englanders are logical, and we’d be quick to point out to someone who is suffering in our climate that many parts of America have it worse than we do with Old Man Winter. Everything from the Great Lakes west to the Rockies along our latitude is colder than we are, as our climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream. As cold as our air is right now, there is a touch of Florida to it that is saving us from the true Ice Bowl stuff.
Still, New Englanders sometimes forget that a lot of the country is comprised of states that are much warmer than we are. Any state which once had people picking cotton is warmer than us. Any state Mexicans sneak into is warmer than us. Any state where people surf, any state with a Disney park in it, any state with palm trees, any state with more than one NASCAR track… you guessed it, warmer than us.
Winter is officially when the axis of the Earth is tilting away from the sun in our hemisphere. Weathermen sometimes call winter the 3 months with the coldest temperatures. Other people go by length of day, vernal equinox dates, animal migrations, and a ton of other omens.
Winter brings the coldness. Cold is a subjective perception thing. Someone from New England might scoff at what someone from Georgia considers to be cold, while someone from Alaska might find the Yankee to be a bit of a wuss. The coldest temperature ever recorded reliably was above Lake Rostov in Antarctica, which clocked in at -128 Fahrenheit. That’s just about as cold as the polar ice caps of Mars, if you need a scale of reference.
Cold will happily kill you if you don’t protect yourself from it. Humans have an optimal operating temperature in the 90s. We’re not designed (fur, down, blubber) for colder conditions, and we only survive in places like New England or Finland because we’re crafty suckers who figure out stuff like fire and electricity. Without that, we’d be Peopsicles.
How cold does it get around here?
Although it is not Cranberry County, Boston has extensive weather records. Boston is a bit north of Cranberry County, but it also has a more concrete-ish urban heat effect. They are generally just a bit colder than coastal Cranberry County, and warmer than inland Cranberry County.
The same basic logic applies to snowfall, with Boston getting the lesser snow of an East Falmouth rather than the heavier snowfall of an East Bridgewater.
I just happen to have the January weather records for Boston right here. This year and her frigid start are not included in these stats. They go back to 1920. Let’s roll through some fun facts, shall we?
– January is the coldest month, with an average high/low temperature range of 36/22. Second coldest? February, follwed by December, March, November, April, and October.
– Rolling through the lowest January temperatures, we get a -2 in 2011, a -7 in 2004, -4 in 1994, 1988 and 1981, and an ungodly -12 in 1957. For highs, we hit 69 degrees in 2007 and a lay-out-and-tan 72 degrees in 1950.
– Boston’s record for coldest high temperature in a January day is 7 degrees. It was -4 that night, so people were happy with the 7. However, the temperature never dropped below 55 degrees on a day in 1950.
– The state in January has an Average Daily High temperature range running from 21.9 degrees in the Berkshires to 29 in Boston to 31 on Martha’s Vineyard.
– The lowest temperature ever recorded in Massachusetts was -37 F, in Chester. Nominally warm states like Arizona, California, Missouri and Mayland have all had colder days than that. California also somehow owns the national snowfall event total record at like 20 feet or something.
– Cape Cod, the South Shore, Bristol County and Boston get, generally, about 2/3 the snow that Worcester gets.
– Average annual snowfall totals (days with at least .1″ of snow, and inches of snow per year) for towns in our area, through 2014:
Boston 22.4 days/43.6″
Boston is our standard, and we’ll lead off with it.
Chatham 11.7 days, 28.9″
Martha’s Vineyard, 9.7 days, 23.6″
Hyannis, 6.1 days, 15.6″
Chatham and Martha are further out into the ocean, and get clipped by storms more than closer-to-the-mainland Hyannis. The totals spike upward when we go to the mainland, although the South Coast is subject to the same Gulf Stream effect that Cape Cod is regarding to moderate temperatures.
Taunton, 10.3 days, 28.0″
New Bedford, 14.7 days, 33.2″
Wareham, 14.3 days, 36.1 inches
Plymouth, 13.1 days, 36.2″
Hingham, 25 days, 47.1″
Hingham’s totals illustrate how the snow is more regular as you move north. Plymouth, Taunton and Wareham (and even the Cape and Islands, once you stare at the numbers a lot) illustrate how, when they do get snow, they tend to get a lot of it. Plymouth gets rain half of the time when Hingham gets snow, but they get more than 2/3 of Hingham’s snow in that same time frame.
Blue Hill, 29.1 days, 62.7 inches
Lowell, 20.3 days, 51.9″
Amherst 16.6 days, 36.9″
East Brimfield, 23.1 days, 59.0″
Worcester, 31.7 days, 64.1″
Great Barington, 22.1 days, 61.0″
Worthington, 52.6 days, 79.7″
Ripton, 366 days, 1968″
Worcester, which is in the hills a bit, is used as the Central Massachusetts benchmark on most news programs. Blue Hill is a mountain, or what passes for a mountain in EMass. Amherst is in the Connecticut River Valley, which gets lower totals than, say, Great Barrington. I’m amazed that there is a need to differentiate between the eastern and western pats of Brimfield, but it probably matters a lot to Brimfieldians. Ripton is a fictional community, so I gave it fictional snowfall totals.
– Boston is the windiest of major US cities, with an average wind speed of 12.3 mph.
We’re windier than Chicago, the Windy City, which clocks 10.3 mph. Tornado-ridden Oklahoma City only gets 12.2 mph.
– January snowfall totals in Boston
2015, 34.3″ (February was the backbreaker that year)
1978, 35.90 (that’s BEFORE the Blizzard, btw)
1957, 20.6″ (They also had a 72 degree day that month)