The 2019-2020 Winter never got a big storm, a rare occurrence for Rochester

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Rochester still holds the title for snowiest winter for cities with populations over 100,000 in the United States and based on the amounts as of Tuesday, March 24, we’re leading Anchorage, AK and Syracuse, NY by about four inches. The numbers will change, statistically speaking, as Rochester should get a few more inches before all snow is done. As far as the winter goes, astronomically it ended on the 19th. From a meteorology standpoint, it ended March 1.

Winter runs from December through February. Three months. That makes life a lot easier for statisticians that need exact dates to have more accurate data from year to year. Lets look at those three months for Rochester NY

All data for this analysis was found here. It is free and publicly available through the NWS Buffalo office. Below is a chart of each month’s average temperature for the ’19-’20 winter season as well as snowfall and liquid equivalent compared to the climatological average. Circled in red is the difference when looking at all three months combined.

NOTE: Higher than average temperatures and higher than average precipitation, but lower snowfall rates.

Note that the snowfall average for this period was down about six inches, but liquid equivalent was above average by more than 2″. This could be explained by either more rain events or events in which snow fell with higher water content (lower snow ratios). Below is a look at precipitation type for each month.


In December, Rochester received 14 days of measurable snow, all at or below about 4″ for a 24 hour period. Four days of December saw measurable water and no snow that added up to more than an inch, including December 30, where .76″ of rain fell as afternoon highs climbed into the lower 50s.

In January, Rochester received 14 days of measurable snow, all at or below 5″ for a 24 hour period. There were three days that saw measurable water and no snow was measured. This added up to .89″ on the month. It includes a soaker of almost half an inch of rain on January 25th, where overnight low was 33 and the afternoon high was 45, both well above average.

In February, Rochester received 17 days of measurable snow, all at or below about 5″ for a 24 hour period. At early glance, it looks like most precipitation events in February fell as either all snow or a wet snow as there were no days with just rain.


Let’s consider a big snow one that is more than half a foot (6″). The most interesting part here there were zero 24 hour stretches in which Rochester got more than 6″ of snowfall. While there was an event in November, that does not count as it is still fall. There were also a few events in which the event total snowfall likely crested 6″ from going through midnight, but that does not count in the 24 hour snowfall total either. This is very rare and has not happened in nearly 15 years.

The last time this happened was the 2005-2006 winter season. December got 19″, January 14″, and February 28.8″ totaling 61.8″. Below average and still surprising that none of it came as a 6″ snowfall within a 24 hour period. This has only happened four times in the past 30 winters.


Find NOAA’s winter outlook here. (Also seen below)

NOAA called for a warmer than average winter (remember, defined as December, January, and February) See below:

NWS forecast from the Climactic Prediction Center (CPC)

They verified well when it came to temperature as most areas (including Rochester) were well above average.

Verification for temperature across the continental United States.

Precipitation is harder to forecast. Whether it be for one location for a few days out or an entire country for months out. The forecast for precipitation did not verify as well as the NWS CPC would have liked, as precipitation exceeded average in the southeast, whereas their forecast was for a peak in the upper Mid-West. It did however reach above average in the Great Lakes and Ohio River Valley, a good forecast.

In conclusion, this was a strange winter for everyone, even without the finishing touch of a pandemic. Expect to see a swing back to normal in the 2020-2021 season where we get at least one 24-hour-period with a 6″ snowfall.

  • Meteorologist James Gilbert

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