New York State Snowfall Average (1971-2000)
Source: NOAA's 1981-2010 Climate Normals
The climate of New York is marked by abundant snowfall. The average snowfall is greater than 70 inches over 60 percent of New York's area. The moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean reduces the snow accumulation to 25 to 35 inches in the New York City area and on Long Island. The most of the winter precipitation in upstate New York falls as snow.
Topography, elevation, and proximity to large bodies of water result in a great variation of snowfall in the state's interior, even within relatively short distances. Maximum seasonal snowfall, averaging more than 175 inches, occurs on the western and southwestern slopes of the Adirondacks and Tug Hill. A secondary maximum of 150 to 180 inches prevails in the southwestern highlands, 10 to 30 miles inland from Lake Erie.
Three separate areas of the Eastern Plateau record heavy snow accumulations, averaging from 100 to 120 inches:
Minimum seasonal snowfall of 40 to 50 inches occurs upstate:
In northern New York, the Adirondack region has an average seasonal snowfall in excess of 90 inches, but amounts decreased to 60 to 70 inches in the lowlands of the St. Lawrence Valley and to about 60 inches in the vicinity of Lake Champlain.
Snow produced in the lee of Lakes Erie and Ontario is a prominent and important aspect of New York's climate. As cold air crosses the unfrozen lakes, it is warmed in the lower layers, picks up moisture, and reaches the land in an unstable condition. Precipitation in the form of snow is released as the air moves inland over the gradually sloping higher terrain. Heavy snow squalls can occur, generating from 1 to 2 feet of snow and occasionally 4 feet or more. Snowfall produced by this "lake-effect" usually extends into the Mohawk Valley and often inland as far as the southern Finger Lakes and nearby southern tier of counties.
Counties to the lee of Lake Erie are subject to heavy lake-effect snows in November and December, but as the lake surface gradually freezes by midwinter, these snows become less frequent. Areas near Lake Ontario, especially those to the southeast and east, are exposed to severe snow squalls well into February because the Lake generally retains considerable open water throughout the winter months.
In the snow belts near Lake Erie and Ontario and the plateau regions of eastern and northern New York, monthly snowfall amounts in excess of 24 inches are experienced in most winters; accumulations of more than 50 inches within 2 consecutive months are not uncommon. Monthly accumulations of between 3 to 10 inches usually occur in New York City and Long Island during the winter season, but occasionally the amounts may exceed 20 inches as a result of coastal nor'easters.
Snow cover usually begins to develop in the Adirondacks and northern lowlands by late November and remains until some time in April, depending upon late winter snowfall and early spring temperatures. The Southern Plateau, Great Lakes Plain in southern portions of western upstate New York, and the Hudson Valley experience a continuous snow cover from about mid-December to mid-March, with maximum depths usually occurring in February. Bare ground may occur briefly in the lower elevations of these regions during some winters. From late December or early January through February, the coastal region of the state experiences alternating periods of measurable snow cover and bare ground.