The idea of perfect weather is as crazy as the idea of a perfect world or a perfect anything. One person’s ideal weather is another’s worst day. The funny thing about weather is that some people enjoy what most of us consider the worst weather (snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes). We’ve had people ask us where to move to for the best place to see tornadoes, believe it or not. To help us answer the question of “perfect” weather, we polled our Facebook fans. The consensus seemed to be for clear blue skies, low humidity, temperatures around 75°F, and a light wind. Yet others said snow and lots of it. So instead of picking perfect weather we’re picking far-from-perfect or “worst” weather.
In the 2002 Farmers’ Almanac, we decided to offer our picks for the 10 best and ten worst weather cities. The response was amazing. Many agreed, some disagreed, and others suggested cities we should have included on the list. To compile this list, we looked at temperatures, sky conditions, precipitation, humidity, and wind. This year we’re doing it again, but with a twist–we are looking at which cities have the worst winter weather and which have the worst summer weather.
Worst Winter Cities
How We Chose
The following list took a number of meteorological factors into consideration, as well as the population size of the cities. We set a limit of a population of at least 50,000 people. Interestingly, from our original “10 Worst” list of 2002, two cities, Syracuse and New Orleans, made it onto our Worst Weather list. Here are our listings for the ten cities, five each with the worst winter and worst summer weather in the United States.
5. DETROIT, MICHIGAN The hardest thing to adjust to in a Motor City winter is not so much the cold or wintry precipitation, it is the lack of sunshine. Winter days in Detroit mean an abundance of cloudy, gloomy days. The sky seems to be perpetually gray. During the winter season, two out of every three days are overcast. Clear, sunny days occur, on average, just 13 percent of the time.
4. CLEVELAND, OHIO The earmarks of Cleveland winters are cold and snow. Typically, there are an average of five days with subzero temperatures. Mean annual snowfall increases, from west to east in Cuyahoga County, from 45 to 90 inches. Winds generally blow across Lake Erie from the west and cause localized snow squalls in the city’s eastern suburbs.
3. CASPER, WYOMING Snow is common in this town and has occurred as early as September and as late as early June. The average daily winter temperature is 22°F, and on average, 181 days of the year have temperatures at or below 32°F. Casper is among the top five most windiest spots in the nation. The prevailing winter wind blows from the southwest, with the emphasis on “blows.” Some wind gusts have been clocked at over 60 m.p.h. The wind has knocked tractor-trailers off interstates. As one native put it: “In the winter we have snow followed by wind, wind followed by snow, and wind and snow together. In some places the snow never hits the ground but gets worn out by the wind.” And the late Jean Shepherd wrote: “Let me tell you, you’ve never been in a blizzard until you’ve been in a real Wyoming screamer. The snow was coming down so fast and hard that I felt I was driving through a white tunnel. It got colder and colder, and my windshield was freezing up faster than the defrosters could blow it off.
2. DULUTH, MINNESOTA “Frigid” is how many describe Duluth. During the winter, it’s second only to International Falls (“The Icebox of the Nation”) in terms of rank among the nation’s coldest cities. The transition to bitter winter weather is dramatic. In October, the average high temperature is a comfortable 53°F. But by December, it has fallen to 22°F, and by January (the coldest month), it’s only 16°F. An example of how extreme the cold can get here is “The Great Cold Snap of 1996” (January 29 through February 5). During that time, Duluth recorded 164 consecutive hours of below zero (°F) temperatures. On February 2, the low temperature was minus 39°F and the high temperature was minus 21°F. Duluth receives nearly 80 inches of snow, much of it as a result of cold easterly winds flowing over the western tip of Lake Superior, producing local lake-effect snowfalls. But it’s the frigid cold that gets Duluth a spot on our Top 5 list.
1. SYRACUSE, NEW YORK “Cold,” “clammy,” “snowy” are three great ways to describe Syracuse weather–from October through April. Winter starts very early and lasts late, with plenty of snow and extremely cold temperatures. Winter daytime temperatures average in the lower 30s, with nighttime lows in the teens, but temperatures as low as minus 25°F have been recorded. Snow also makes winter uncomfortable in Syracuse, averaging almost 120 inches per season. During the winter of 2009—2010, Syracuse was again the winner of the prestigious “Golden Snowball Award,” celebrating the city with most snowfall for the winter in upstate New York, beating out such snowy cities as Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Binghamton. Syracuse also made our Farmers’ Almanac “10 Worst” list in 2002. Another reason why this city makes the worst winter weather list — December, January, and February are typically gloomy, with Syracuse receiving only one third of the sunshine possible, because of considerable cloud cover.
Do you have a worst winter weather city that should make the list? Tell us about it.
Caleb Weatherbee is the official forecaster for the Farmers' Almanac. His name is actually a pseudonym that has been passed down through generations of Almanac prognosticators and has been used to conceal the true identity of the men and women behind our predictions.