Weather can make or break a Trip and as such it’s always a very repeated question. I think we all have our own perceptions of what the weather in New York is like and it’s
mostly images of extreme cold or styling heat in Summer. But what is the weather like in New York City in reality?
This article is intended to not only help you understand the City’s Weather and Climate but how to make the best of the weather and how to plan in a way that allows inclement weather to be less of a trip ruiner. You can’t change the weather but there are steps you can take to stop it from completely ruining your trip.
New York has what is known as a Continental Climate. Meaning it has proper seasons. Cold in the Winter and Hot in the Summer. It also has a Proper Spring and Autumn (Fall).
While it’s possible to experience just about any type of weather in New York, the Climate is fairly stable and predictable most of the time. While it is susceptible to storms and extreme events they are rare and for most trips, the worst you will face is a chilly day, some rain, and poor visibility or it might be too hot for much walking in summer.
While The City has a reputation for freezing cold winters it actually has a quite mild climate in relation to other northern cities on the continent! As the City is very low lying, practically at sea level, this helps keep the winters warmer. But the Big Driver is the ocean currents: warm water from the Caribbean flows up the coastline warming the land and keeping things just that bit warmer than would otherwise be the case.
Let’s not get too carried away though, New York is still COLD in the winter. Days are short, Nights are cold and the wind can cut like a knife. But compared to say Chicago, which is at a similar latitude, the City is up to 10°F warmer than its inland cousin.
You can learn a lot from studying the average temperatures in a city but after a while of looking at numbers, it all becomes a bit meaningless and you stop taking it in. As such we will focus more on what it actually feels like rather than just bombard you with Degrees Centigrade and Farenheight.
Of course, the numbers matter so let’s get them out of the way right from the start: The following two graphs show the Average temperatures of each month along with the average Maximum and the average Minimum. One in each flavor of Degree, depending on which you were brought up with.
These graphs show the marked difference between summer and winter but it misses out on some of the extremes. Also, the city has several quirks that exacerbate these temps. The Wind makes some winter days feel much much colder than the temps suggest and the concrete canyons funnel the wind to howling proportions. Likewise, the warm summer temps feel much much hotter than an 80°F Max would suggest. Again the Built-up nature of the city accentuates the temps, at street level, the canyons wall the heat in and the asphalt acts as a heat sink, with the heat and fumes of the traffic driving things further.
Let’s Dig into the Seasons with a little more detail:
What is the Weather like in New York in Winter
December – February
Winter can be Bitingly cold in New York. Ice and Snow can line streets and the air temp can plunge well into the minus’s, However it’s not as cold as most people imagine, especially in December.
Most people’s Winter New York Trips are timed for December so they can see New York all dressed up in its Christmas Finery. And for that reason, it’s a Magical time to Visit. But one comment you’ll hear over and over when planning is “Ooh It will be COLD at that time of year!”
Well not really, actually. It’s obviously, not going to be warm, although temperatures can and do reach unseasonably warm 16°C+ 61°F+. But in general, it’s still more Akin to what you would associate with Late Autumn rather than the Depths of winter. A coat and a jumper are all you will need for a full day of exploring, plus a hat, scarf, and gloves on windy days. We have even enjoyed many Central Park deli picnics in December!
Only come January and February does the deep winter cold really set in. And even then it’s not Arctic conditions. Just a Solid bitingly cold day. It’s not like parts of Canada where the Temperature Drops to -10 -20 -30!
It’s also the Driest Season. While it can and does rain any time of the year, you can expect a lot of clear dry days in Winter. Brilliant for Photography even though the light can be challenging.
Of course, what is the norm is not always the case. New York is on occasion hit by large snowstorms and Arctic conditions. It’s rare but does happen. See the Extreme Weather section below.
When it does snow, a lot of New York can grind to a halt, but for tourists, it simply means changing your plans. Feel lucky you have got the snow. Head To Times Square to see the landmark in the Snow, watch the flakes fall out over the Hudson bay in front of the Statue of Liberty, or head to the magical winter wonderland that is Central Park in the Snow.
What is the Weather like in New York in Spring
In Spring things start to warm up from the winter cold. The sun rises higher in the sky bathing the City in glorious sunshine and the Colours begin to pop as the flowers and blossoms bloom. It’s a fabulous time to visit. Avoiding both the Summer highs and the Winter Lows.
March can still register in the Very Cold bracket but as the months pass the temperatures rise. By the end of May, summer feels well on its way.
Rain can increase as the winter recedes with April and May being the wettest two months of the year with around half the days seeing rain.
When the Sun Shines and the rain stays away the city can be very pleasant indeed. Early morning and evenings can be cool still so Layers are the order of the day for clothing. After brisk starts the temps will rise and days spent tearing around the City Sightseeing will leave you a hot sweaty mess unless you can strip down some of your layers.
Central Park is a truly wonderful location during the spring as it burst into bloom. Picnic Lunches and long ambling strolls around the paths, terraces, woods, and meadows are a pure delight.
What is the Weather like in New York in Summer
June – August
As Summer rolls in temperatures REALLY begin to soar. And that is not always a good thing. Average temps peak at a mere 77°F (25°C) in July but that figure really belies the true intensity of a New York Summer. The Concrete Jungle has a huge influence on how intense that heat can become.
Really hot days will have you running for the AirCon, which is thankfully very common in New York. Heatwaves can and do happen with record temperatures hitting a dangerous 102°F (39°C) on Occasion. While this, however, is thankfully rare, temperatures can regularly top 86°F (30°C) in July and August, these heatwaves are also becoming increasingly more common, at once a year now the needle starts to get dangerously high.
Down at street level, this heat is unimaginably unbearable. The Concrete walls and the black Asphalt roads all act as heat sinks and sun traps, containing and magnifying the heat. Fumes from the traffic and the surging hustle and bustle of the crowds all make for a hot, humid cauldron of misery. Family Tempers can easily flair as you attempt to get around the City, negotiating queues, high prices, and general frustration.
A Summer visit needs to include downtime: time to enjoy the park, a trip to Coney Island to soak up the short beach season in New York, or maybe even a trip out to the Hamptons and Long Islands Beach resorts. The City is just too hot and too chaotic to spend all your time here!
Rainy days fall off in the Summer compared to Spring. Compared to Autumn and Winter there is still a chance of rain and Days can be wet with low clouds and poor visibility. So it’s still important to be flexible with your plans and your clothing. There is no point going up the Empire State Building if the cloud obscures your view.
Heavy Storms are also a big possibility. When the heatwaves break or the high activity weather of the mid-west spills over large thunderstorms can develop. These are short-lived and often very spectacular. The Huge Skyscrapers are conduits for the electrical energy raining down from the skies and building stikes are a regular occurrence. Lightning rods actually entice the strikes and channel the energy away safely. But looking out your hotel window and watching nature smash down on the city is a real treat. As long as you are not caught out in the storm.
What is the Weather like in New York in Autumn/Fall
September – November
Ok, don’t tell the Other Seasons, but Fall is our favorite season to visit New York. The Temperatures drop off from their summer highs but are still pleasant enough to enjoy the park. As the Month Draws on these temps fall further and by mid-to-late November you can expect near to freezing temps on certain days.
Rainy days also drop off as the Season rolls on. The Skies are often clear and bathe the City in a wonderful golden light. The Highlight of Autumn is the coloring of the trees. From October onwards the city foliage turns to a wonderful array of golden yellows, oranges, and reds. Contrasted against the towering monoliths of steel and glass the city is truly spectacular.
When the Skies are blue and the sun is shining there are few better places to be in the world. Like spring Layered clothing is a good choice as the Mornings and evenings will be cool but midday and afternoon can still be nice and warm. The ability to add and reduce layers is critical.
Early Fall storms are likely but these often tail off as the months roll by. The duration of weather systems does increase, however, with the short sharp downpours of late summer replaced by large transcontinental weather systems that can bring rain for an entire day as opposed to merely an afternoon drenching.
Still, these fronts are few and far between with most days clear dry sunny, and mild. As the Holiday Season approaches the excitement in the city ramps up and Thanksgiving weekend is one of the city’s highlights. The Macy’s Parade is one of the city’s most loved days.
New York’s Wind
The Wind is the one thing rarely mentioned and it’s the one thing that can transform a day completely. A cold Winters’ day is perfectly bearable in light winds but when it picks up it can feel Bitingly cold. Likewise, a pleasant Breezy summer’s day becomes Muggy and unbearable when there is no wind.
The unique construction of the City helps amplify anything nature musters up. The winds race down the concrete canyons and are bitingly cold. As the song goes it really is “no place for the old”. And again in summer, it’s the layout of the city that magnifies and intensifies the heat by means of heat sinks and containment by the canyon walls, a breeze can help blow this heat off but on still days the city just cooks.
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a lot you can do about the wind. However, be prepared, if the temperature appears reasonable, but the forecast wind is high, assume it’s going to feel an awful lot colder. So extra layers or a windbreaker is a sensible precaution. In Summer if it’s hot, sunny, and sticky with no wind, plan for easy relaxed activities as it can get very oppressive in the concrete canyons of the city, better still head to the museums on the hottest days and bathe in the climate-controlled halls and exhibits!
How Much does it Rain in New York – Precipitation (Rain)
Rain is the ruiner of all trips, especially New York trips. As Rain is often accompanied by low clouds, rainy days can often shroud tall buildings in clouds. This can turn those once-in-a-lifetime dream views into nothing more than a greyed-out view of nothing. Trust us there are no magical rainbows or unicorns on the inside of a cloud!
Rainy Days just ruin everything, the entire city becomes less vibrant, dull, grey, and lifeless. Not to mention the issues of getting soaked. In heavy rain, puddles and street rivers form and you get drenched from the bottom up as well as the top down.
Rain can appear during any season. Rainy days per month range from 9-15 and the amount of rainfall is fairly constant throughout the year. How this rain falls is different, however.
Rain can come from a short sudden storm, more common in Summer, to more prolonged periods of rain as larger systems roll across the state. The Larger Systems are most common in spring but also roll through in late Autumn and winter. These can bring prolonged periods of rain and high winds. These can ruin large parts of your trip, and spring is especially prone to washouts.
Rain in the Summer tends to be shorter but heavier. Expect afternoon/evening storms to light up the City when unstable systems are in play, but when stable low pressure is in charge expect long hot summer scorchers.
Winter Rain tends to be lighter, but often lasting a day or over, low cloud mist and dullness are the key features here, none of which makes for good sightseeing.
Museums are your friend should you be faced with Rain. Once snugly inside one of New York’s many world-class museums, you will not even be thinking about the rain outside.
The Key to beating the rain is flexibility. There is no real season or dry period in New York that we can recommend to avoid the possibility of rainy days so you just need to adapt. Plan your sightseeing into days, where some days are good weather days and some bad weather days buttery not to lock those down to any particular day. Then a couple of days out check the forecast and assign your days based on which are forecast to be good or bad.
Warning – Forecasts in the Summer may show long periods of heavy rain lasting your entire trip. If this is the case they are probably predicting Storms. These can occur at any time so the forecast shows them, but they can be impossible to predict with any accuracy. They are saying the weather will be conducive to storms forming, but when and where is unknown. It is highly unlikely they will around all day, and you will often just get a soaking in the afternoon, or get missed completely!
The Bad News is this probably means the humidity is high, meaning it’s going to be hot and sticky anytime it’s not raining!
The Larger Weather systems that control the cooler months are more stable and predictable so you can trust the forecasts a little more.
How Often does it Snow In New York?
It is possible to get snow anytime from November to May! Of course outside of winter, it will be short-lived and not very disruptive.
In winter, Snow can stick around. New York Authorities and its people are well used to snow however and unless particularly severe should not cause you much difficulty. You should allow a little longer for any journeys you are planning. Especially your Return Airport Trip!
Should you receive snow on your trip treat it as a bonus, You get to see New York at its most beautiful. The Park Transforms into a wonderland, Snow in Times Square, especially at night is really beautiful and many mundane New York Scenes are transformed with a smattering of white.
It is true that a heavy snowfall might tear your carefully laid plans up. But don’t look at it like that, it really is a blessing to See New York covered in the white stuff.
Unfortunately, on occasion, maybe only once or twice a decade, really heavy snowfalls. This is hugely disruptive and can see flights canceled traffic ground to a halt and even shelter-in-place orders being issued. These types of Snowfalls are so rare, you can pretty much discount them. Just make sure you have adequate travel insurance and contingency plans if you are traveling to New York in the winter.
Extreme Weather in New York
From time to time New York can receive bouts of Extreme weather. These are normally in the form of severe storms. These could be Heavy snowstorms that cause severe disruption or even large Atlantic hurricanes moving up from the tropics.
Along with traffic grinding to a halt, the disruption caused can be from minor hassles like attractions shutting down right up to the cancellation of flights and closure of the airports: A big problem if you are flying out the next day.
Hurricanes can strike at any time during the Atlantic Hurricane Season, Typically June-November, but is getting increasingly early. Most Atlantic Hurricanes do not trouble New York. They head harmlessly out over the Atlantic. More often New York receives the remnants of the storms. These are fast-moving weather bands that bring heavy rain and high winds fleetingly but nothing damaging or disruptive.
Every now and then though a fully developed storm wanders up the seaboard and smashes into the State. Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy are the most recent examples but these events are rare and should not affect your planning.
It’s also possible in Summer to get Heatwaves. These are normally areas of low pressure and as such atmospheric conditions can trap dust and pollution at low levels making the city a fairly unpleasant place to be. Very hot humid and hazy. It can reach levels that are actually hazardous to your health. Especially if you have health problems already.
Fortunately, this level of severe weather is quite rare, It’s not really worth worrying about. Just book your trip, make sure you have good travel insurance in place, and always pay attention to announcements and statements from the authorities. In all likelihood, your trip will go off without a hitch. However while rare, the current Climate Instabilities are causing these events to be more and more frequent.
Have Your Say
Have you been to New York Recently? what season did you go in? how was the weather? Feel free to drop us a comment below. Maybe you are a local, and have a different take on the climate? Feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments below or any concerns you may have for an upcoming trip we would be more than happy to assist.