A deep dive into this winter’s shallow snowfall level

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While a burst of frigid temperatures caused Rochester city schools and some offices to close last Friday, wintry weather has largely been conspicuous by its absence in the 2022-23 season.

According to data from the National Weather Service, through January, Rochester has seen only 17.9 inches of cumulative snowfall this winter, the third lowest total in over 80 years.

At this time last year, the area had received 48.4 inches. The average amount of snowfall through January is 51.9 inches. Even the 1952-53 winter season, which had the lowest recorded amount on record, had 19.3 inches by this point.

While February can be a heavy snowfall month for Rochester, January typically sees the most with 24.5 inches accumulated on average. This holds true with other cities in western and central New York; Buffalo, Syracuse, and Binghamton all see their average highest snowfall amounts occur in January.

Among the cities in western and central New York, Rochester has had the lowest snowfall this season. The other lowest area, Oswego, has had 26.4 cumulative inches to date, 9 inches more than Rochester.

Unsurprisingly, among those cities, Buffalo has had the most snowfall this season. A Christmas blizzard brought 80 mph winds, heaped over 50 inches of snow on the city, and caused the deaths of at least 39 people. In fact, on Dec. 23 the Buffalo Airport received more snow–22.3 inches–than Rochester has seen so far this winter. In January, Buffalo’s snowfall total fell more in line with that month’s average amount for the city.

Historically, Rochester gets an average of 94.1 inches of snowfall a year (the median is 90.7 inches). Thanks to a number of blizzards in 1970 and 1978, the 1970s were the snowiest decade for the area. The winter of 1959-60 had the most snowfall, however, with 161.7 inches of total accumulation that season.

Some notable Januaries include 60.2 inches in 1966, 60.4 in 1978, and 61.3 in 2004, all due in part to a blizzard each of those years. The highest monthly total ever for the city occurred in February 1958, with 64.8 inches of snowfall recorded.

The lowest snowfall decade on record in Rochester was the 1940s; during that 10-year span, the area received over 90 inches of snow in a year only once. This decade has yet to have a high snowfall year, and the 2022-23 winter season likely will not change that trend.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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