Does it snow in Philadelphia? Philadelphia attracts visitors because of its diverse culture, rich history, and vibrant art scene.
The climate also makes it popular with visitors, as it has cold winters and warm summers.
However, many people wonder, “Does it snow a lot in Philadelphia?” And if it does, “When does it snow in Philadelphia to plan your vacations accordingly.
Let’s find out more about it now!
Yes, Philadelphia gets snow, but it is extremely rare, and whatever snow it gets stays between 2-6 inches in winter.
More about Climate of Philadelphia
Philadelphia has a humid subtropical climate, which means it experiences hot and humid summers and relatively mild winters.
During the months of June to August, the temperatures in summer usually stay around 80 degrees. On the other hand, in the winter months of December to February, the average high temperatures are in the 40s.
Here is a bit about the average temperature in Philadelphia:
|Months||Average Temperature (F)|
Fact: The city has an average annual rainfall of 41 inches, which also makes the climate a bit more humid.
Does It Snow in Philadelphia?
It can snow in Philadelphia, but it is quite rare.
Philadelphia, located about 60 miles away from the Atlantic Ocean, has a humid climate that is affected by its close proximity to the ocean.
During the summer months of June to August, temperatures usually stay in the 80s Fahrenheit. In contrast, the winter months of December to February have average highs in the 40s Fahrenheit.
The temperate climate is one big reason you are less likely to experience snow in Philadelphia.
Here is more about average high and low temperatures in Philadelphia:
|Months||Average Low (F)||Average High (F)|
How Much Does It Snow in Philadelphia?
Philadelphia typically receives an average of 21.7 inches of snow each year.
The snow season in the city lasts for about 4.2 months, beginning on November 22 and ending on March 28.
There is a possibility of getting at least 1.0 inch of snow within a 31-day period during this time. January is typically the month with the highest amount of snowfall, averaging around 6.0 inches.
On the other hand, the city experiences a snow-free period lasting 7.8 months, starting from March 28 and ending on November 22. During this time, there is hardly any snowfall, especially around August 1.
Changing Winter in Philadelphia
In the last 50 years, winter temperatures have increased by almost 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Philadelphia is predicted to have more frequent heatwaves and intense downpours in the upcoming years.
The winter of 2022-2023 was exceptionally warm for the city and had very little snowfall, which is a clear example of this ongoing trend.
While there are still occasional cold spells, such as those caused by phenomena like the polar vortex, overall, winters are becoming warmer.
The change in climate also increases the likelihood of flooding due to intense rainfall.
How Often Does It Snow in Philadelphia?
Philadelphia gets snow, but it is less as compared to other cities in the region.
Philadelphia usually experiences its first measurable snowfall by mid-December, with an average annual accumulation of 23.1 inches.
The city often sees snow depths of five inches or more on about four or five days each year.
Snowstorms that bring more than five inches of snow in a day happen about once a year, mostly between December and March.
Here is the average snowfall in Philadelphia from 2010 to 2019:
Fact: Philadelphia's snowfall can vary greatly, with seasonal totals ranging from very little to a significant 78.7 inches.
The Recent Snowfall Trends in Philadelphia
Quite recently, Philadelphia has been going through an exceptionally rare period of little to no snowfall.
The city is still waiting for its first measurable snowfall, which is approaching the latest date on record, February 3, 1995.
In recent decades, snowfall across the United States has been decreasing due to global warming. Due to weather patterns, snowstorms have been pushed west of the city this season.
Philadelphia usually experiences the highest snowfall in February, which means there is still a possibility of snow totals increasing if a significant late-season storm occurs.
However, it seems that the city is likely to experience less snow than usual this winter.
Why Is Snowfall Rare in Philadelphia?
Philadelphia does get some snow, but it is not that significant, and that is due to many contributing factors.
The location of Philadelphia along the East Coast is a key factor in why it receives less snowfall compared to cities further inland and to the north.
Philadelphia, located around 40°N latitude, enjoys milder temperatures and less snowfall than snow-prone cities like Boston and New York.
The fact that it is close to the coast and the Atlantic Ocean helps stabilize the climate, keeping winter temperatures relatively warm.
The Role of the Appalachian Mountains
Another reason why snow is rather rare in Philadelphia is due to its location close to the Appalachian Mountains.
These mountains shield the city from cold air and moisture coming from the northwest.
This factor contributes to the relatively lower snowfall in Philadelphia compared to cities in the same direction as the prevailing winds.
Fact: Philadelphia experiences relatively low snowfall amounts due to its transitional climate zone, which is a result of a unique combination of factors.
Larger climatic phenomena also influence the winter snowfall patterns in Philadelphia.
El Niño, which is known for causing abnormal warming in the Pacific, affects the amount of snowfall in the city.
During strong El Niño years, snowfall patterns become highly unpredictable. Some winters experience record-breaking snowfall, while others have very little to no snow at all.
This climate phenomenon causes a contrast in the amount of snowfall that Philadelphia experiences.
The Role of the Polar Vortex
In addition, the polar vortex, which brings extremely cold Arctic air, typically stays positioned further to the north.
This positioning redirects potential snowstorms away from Philadelphia, guiding them towards the west and north.
As a result, the city often receives less snowfall because the polar vortex tends to stay away.
The Impact of Jet Stream
The positioning of the jet stream is crucial in determining the paths of storms.
The presence of a zonal jet stream typically causes storms to be directed north of Philadelphia, resulting in the city being spared from significant snowfall.
Fact: The variability and occasional lack of snowfall in Philadelphia are influenced by larger-scale climatic patterns.
The Impact of Global Warming
During the 2022-2023 season, Philadelphia recorded one of its warmest winters.
With an average temperature of 41.2°F, this winter was the warmest since 2015. During the entire winter season, the area received only 0.3 inches of snow, and no winter storm warnings were issued.
Climate scientists have stated that the absence of snow and the mild winter experienced in Philadelphia is seen as an indication of the effects of climate change.
They warn that these conditions are likely to worsen if carbon emissions are not reduced.
Does it snow in Philadelphia? Yes, it does, but it is usually very rare and never stays on the ground for long. It gets little snow mainly due to its location close to the large body of water, and those mountains also play a role here.
And of course, we cannot rule out the impact of global warming further reducing the chances of getting snow in Philadelphia.
But, it also means the weather in Philadelphia stays quite comfortable in the winter, making it a suitable place for your winter vacation.