We’re getting into a typical central New York March pattern over the next week with well above normal temperatures late this weekend replaced by colder weather and snow heading into the end of next week. I posted this blog a couple of years ago but given the weather over the next week I thought it might be a good idea to repeat it.
The true seasons are determined by the path of the sun. On March 21st and September 21st the sun is directly over the equator and these days signal the start of spring and fall respectively. On June 21st, when summer starts, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky in the northern Hemisphere and will continue to get lower day by day until it ebbs on December 21st when our winter begins.
For meteorologists our seasons are different and tied more closely to the beginnings of months. December through February is meteorological winter while March-May is spring, June-August is summer and September through November is fall. As we know, though, the weather here in central New York doesn't strictly follow the calendar. Why are there only 4 seasons? Can't we have more?
So when I thought of how I would break up the year, climatologically speaking, for central New York I actually came up with what I would call 6 (not 4) different and distinct seasons. See if you agree with them.
Winter (December 1st – Mid March) This is the true heart of our winter. On average, about 80 percent of our snow falls during this time and the biggest snow storms in Syracuse history fall within this period. Plus our coldest day on record, -26 has been reached on 3 separate days: once in December, once in January and once in February.
Post-Winter (Mid March- April 30th) To me, the unofficial start to this period is the Syracuse St. Patrick's parade. It's a communal get together to collectively say we made it through another central New York winter. Technically the spring equinox occurs during the beginning of this period but we all know true spring weather in this six week period can be quite sporadic. That's why I used the term Post-Winter. In some parts of the Northeast this time of year is affectionately called “Mud Season.” April still averages 4 inches of snow and about once a decade we get an impactful April snowstorm. Many years there is no consistency with temperatures during this time. Daytime highs in the 70s can be replaced days later by 40s. The average last day of frost in Syracuse doesn't come until April 29th.
Spring (May) Most Mays in central New York finally give us the nice mild days on a more consistent basis and by the last half of the month we typically feel safe enough to plant the annuals and vegetables. Some might think I'm short changing spring a bit but I don't think so. If you've lived here long enough and you think about it you will nod in agreement.
Summer (June – Mid September) By June 1st the normal high temperature in Syracuse is 74 degrees so lets be generous and start the summer season 3 weeks ahead of the calendar. Another sign we are into the summer season by this point – the record highs are now all in the 90s starting June 1st. And why be tied down to the State Fair and Labor Day as the unofficial end to summer? The normal high temperatures don't dip into the low 70s until the middle of September. Summer seems so short every year so why end it Labor Day?
Fall (Mid September-Halloween) I hear so many people tell me that Fall is their favorite time in central New York. Gone is the humidity of summer. The temperatures are still generally pleasant enough to do things outside.
Pre-Winter (November) It's hard to put a good spin on November but I can't really put it into the true 'Winter' category. Snow that does fall during this month (and we do average about a foot) tends to melt pretty quickly. Plus, it is not out of the question get a short spell of Indian Summer weather even at this late date.
Of course there are some that would say there are only two seasons in central New York: Winter and July 4th. Let me know what you think. How would you group the seasons in CNY?