In the films, New York is depicted as being mostly cold, especially in winter when it’s covered in snow and is full of people huddling together with big woolly coats in coffee shops. But what many people don’t realise is that although it’s true the city can be bitingly cold during the winter months, it can also get swelteringly hot during the summer months.
Although the average temperatures for New York in summer might not look that high, due to the high concentration of people and the protective effects of the skyscrapers and other concrete buildings, the temperatures can feel a lot hotter than they are. Just picture London, UK on a hot summer’s day – it’s exactly the same for New York.
New York’s climate is classed as being continental, which means that it receives four distinct seasons – spring (March-May), summer (June-August), autumn (September-November) and winter (December-February).
The best time to visit New York is autumn or spring, as you avoid the extreme high temperatures of summer and extreme low temperatures of winter. When you travel during these seasons, you’ll also be visiting in the off-peak time, which means that the city will be much quieter and less crowded than the more popular summer and winter months.
If you choose to travel in autumn, you’ll see the tree-lined streets bursting with orange hues and brown shades as the trees begin to lose their leaves and the city waves goodbye to summer and prepares to welcome winter. On the flipside, in the spring, Central Park will be awash with colour as the sun begins to shine again and flowers start blooming. During this time daily temperatures sit comfortably in the 20s, creating very pleasant weather in which to explore the many exciting sights and sounds of New York City.
Crossroads at Times Square in New York, USA taken by David
Temperatures in New York rise from being extremely cold to pleasantly mild in spring. In March, the average temperature for the city is around 5°C, this rises up to 10°C in April and 15°C in May. Average daily highs and lows follow the same pattern, rising from 8.5°C/1°C in March, to 14.5°C/5.5°C in April and 19.5°C/10.5°C in May. The highest temperature which has ever been recorded in New York in spring is 35°C, which was registered in May, whilst the coldest temperature ever registered in the city during this month is -11°C, which was recorded in March.
Rainfall is fairly high at this time of year, with an average of 103mm falling over 14 days each month. On average, May is usually the wettest month of the spring season, when 114mm of rainfall is expected. The most common forms of precipitation for this season are light rain, followed by moderate rain.
The spring season is when the sun really begins to shine in New York. During this season, the city enjoys an average of eight hours of sunshine each day, rising from seven, to eight to nine daily hours as the months progress. The average humidity for the city at this time of year is 65%, which is fairly low, meaning the mild temperatures and sunshine should always feel pleasant – never overwhelming.
Central Park in New York, USA taken by Kevin
Summer is the hottest season of the year for New York. In June, the average temperature for the city is around 20°C, which rises up to 23°C in July (the hottest month of the year) then drops down to 22°C in August. Average daily highs and lows follow the same pattern, rising from 24.5°C/15.5°C in June up to 27°C/18.5°C in July, before falling down to 26°C/18°C in August. The hottest temperature ever recorded in New York in summer is 39°C, which was recorded in July, whilst the coldest temperature ever registered here during this season is 9°C, which was recorded in June.
When compared to spring, rainfall in summer is fairly minimal, with an average of 93mm falling over 13 rainy days each month. On average, July tends to be the wettest month of the summer season, when 101mm of rainfall is experienced. The most common types of precipitation seen during this season are light rain, moderate rain and thunderstorms.
The summer season boasts the highest quantity of sunshine hours in New York, and is when the city enjoys an average of 10.5 hours of the stuff every day, falling from 11 daily hours in June and July down to ten daily hours in August. The average humidity for the city during this season is 71%, which can make the intense sunshine and relative high temperatures experienced by the city at this time of year seem a bit hotter than they are at times.
View of the Hudson River and Midtown Manhattan in New York, USA via Flickr
After a hot and balmy summer, things really start to cool down in New York in autumn. In September, the average temperature for the city is 18°C, which drops down to 13°C in October and 8°C in November. Average daily highs and lows change in the same way, falling from 22.5°C/14.5°C in September down to 17.5°C/9.5 °C in October and 11.5°C/4.5°C in November. The highest temperature ever recorded in New York in autumn is 34°C, which was recorded in September, whilst the coldest temperature ever registered here during this season is -6°C, which was registered in December.
Just like in summer, the rainfall in New York is fairly minimal when compared to the other months. During this season, each month experiences an average of 90mm of rainfall divided between 11 rainy days, with September being the wettest month, with 108mm of rainfall. The most common forms of precipitation experienced in the city during this season are light rain, moderate rain and heavy rain, although light snowfall is also common in October and November.
During autumn, New York enjoys an average of 7.5 hours of daily sunshine – that is a major decrease compared to summer. The daily sunshine hours start off at nine in September, dropping down to seven in October and six in November. The average humidity for the city at this time is 68%, which means that whenever the sun is shining, it should always feel pleasantly mild and never uncomfortable.
Night view of New York, USA from the Empire State Building taken by Scott
Winter is always the coldest season of the year for New York. In December, the average temperature for the city is 3°C, which drops down to 0.5°C in January and rises up to 1°C in February. Average daily highs and lows change following the same pattern, falling from 7°C/-0.5°C/ in December, down to 4°C/-3°C in January and rising up to 5°C/-0.5°C in February. The hottest temperature ever recorded in New York in winter is 24°C, which was registered in December, whilst the coldest temperature ever registered in New York during this season is -18°C, which was recorded in January.
Surprisingly, winter is the driest season of the year for New York. During this season, each month experiences an average of 71mm of precipitation divided between ten rainy days. January is usually the wettest month of the year, when the city receives 85mm of rainfall over the course of ten rainy days. Snowfall is also very common during this season, with December receiving five snowy days, January eight snowy days and February six snowy days. The most common forms of precipitation experienced by New York during this season are light snow, light rain and moderate rain.
Across winter, New York receives an average of 5.5 hours of sunshine each day – that’s a major decrease compared to autumn. Daily sunshine hours begin at five in December and rise up to six in January and February. The average humidity for the city during this season is 63%, which means that whenever the sun does come out, it will always feel pleasantly mild and never uncomfortable.
Central Park in winter in New York, USA taken by Ralph
New York is regularly hit with severe cold spells, one of the most recent occurring in the winter of 2006 when New York was buried underneath 70cm of snow – a record which previously hadn’t been broken since 1947. The freak storms and heavy snowfall meant that many flights were cancelled and numerous roads closed, resulting in chaos throughout much of the state of New York and various other parts of north eastern USA.
Even more recently is the snowstorm which hit New York in November 2014. At least five people died as freezing temperatures made their way across New York, with records of more than 5 feet/1.5 metres of snow falling in some areas, trapping snow plows, buses, cars and even lorries in heavy drifts. With the snowfall came high winds and freezing temperatures which caught emergency services off-guard.
At the other end of the scale, 2011 saw stifling hot temperatures take over New York. On Friday, July 22nd 2011, temperatures of 104°F/40°C were recorded in Central Park, which was just 2°F short of the hottest temperature ever recorded there. To make matters worse, a sewage problem was causing untreated waste to cascade into the rivers around New York, making water sports and refreshing dips off-limits.