Is Chicago Colder Than New York City? A Comparison Of The Two Cities’ Climates

With their bustling urban lifestyles, iconic architecture, and role as major Midwestern and East Coast metropolises respectively, Chicago and New York City have a natural rivalry and comparison made between them. One point of contrast often brought up – which city has the colder weather?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Based on average yearly temperature data, Chicago is colder than New York City.

In this in-depth article, we’ll dive into historical climate data from both cities including average temperatures, record lows, precipitation, and more. We’ll also look at some of the reasons behind Chicago’s colder climate like its more northern location inland, as well as what cold snaps like the polar vortex mean for Chi-town vs NYC.

Climate Background and Geography

When comparing the climates of Chicago and New York City, it is important to consider their unique geographic factors and how they contribute to the weather patterns experienced in each city.

Chicago’s Climate

Chicago is known for its harsh winters and hot summers. Located in the Midwest region, Chicago experiences a continental climate, characterized by distinct seasons. Winters in Chicago are often bitterly cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing and heavy snowfall.

Summers, on the other hand, can be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching the 90s Fahrenheit (30s Celsius).

The city’s proximity to Lake Michigan also plays a significant role in its climate. The lake acts as a moderating influence, keeping temperatures cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter compared to inland areas.

However, it also brings lake-effect snow during the winter months, leading to higher snowfall totals in the city.

New York City’s Climate

New York City, located on the East Coast, has a more temperate climate compared to Chicago. It experiences a humid subtropical climate, with milder winters and hot, humid summers. The city is influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream, which help to moderate its temperatures.

Winters in New York City are generally milder than in Chicago, with temperatures hovering around freezing or slightly above. Snowfall is also less frequent and typically lighter. Summers can be hot and humid, with temperatures often reaching the 80s Fahrenheit (high 20s Celsius) and occasional heatwaves pushing them into the 90s Fahrenheit (30s Celsius).

Geographic Factors

Both Chicago and New York City have distinct geographic features that contribute to their climates. Chicago’s location in the Midwest exposes it to extreme temperature variations and weather systems originating from the north and west.

The flat terrain of the region allows cold Arctic air masses to sweep across the city, resulting in frigid winter temperatures.

New York City, on the other hand, benefits from the moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean’s proximity helps to regulate temperatures, preventing extreme cold or heat. The city’s coastal location also makes it susceptible to the occasional nor’easter, a powerful storm system that can bring heavy snow and strong winds.

Comparing Average Temperatures

Yearly Averages

When comparing the average temperatures of Chicago and New York City, it is important to consider the yearly averages. According to The Weather Channel, Chicago experiences colder winters and hotter summers compared to New York City.

In Chicago, the average temperature ranges from 19°F (-7°C) in January to 83°F (28°C) in July. On the other hand, New York City has an average temperature of 32°F (0°C) in January and 84°F (29°C) in July. This means that, on average, Chicago tends to be colder throughout the year than New York City.

Seasonal Differences

The seasonal differences between Chicago and New York City are quite significant. In the winter months, Chicago experiences biting cold temperatures with heavy snowfall, while New York City tends to have slightly milder winters.

However, both cities can still experience freezing temperatures and winter storms.

During the summer, Chicago’s proximity to Lake Michigan brings cooler breezes, but it can still get quite hot with occasional heatwaves. New York City, being located on the coast, also experiences hot and humid summers, but it doesn’t get as hot as Chicago due to the cooling effect of the ocean.

Extreme Weather Events

Record Lows

Both Chicago and New York City experience extreme cold temperatures during the winter months, but Chicago tends to have colder record lows compared to New York City. According to historical weather data, the lowest recorded temperature in Chicago was -27°F (-33°C) in January 1985, while the lowest recorded temperature in New York City was -15°F (-26°C) in February 1934.

These frigid temperatures can make daily life challenging, as residents bundle up in multiple layers and brave the cold.

Polar Vortex Effects

The polar vortex, a large area of low pressure and cold air that typically stays near the North Pole, can occasionally shift southward and affect both Chicago and New York City. When this happens, it brings extremely cold temperatures and can cause significant disruptions in daily life.

In January 2019, for example, both cities experienced the effects of a polar vortex, with temperatures dropping to -23°F (-31°C) in Chicago and -1°F (-18°C) in New York City.

The polar vortex can also bring hazardous conditions such as strong winds and heavy snowfall. In addition to the cold temperatures, these weather phenomena can lead to transportation delays, school closures, and increased risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

It is important for residents to take necessary precautions during these extreme weather events, such as staying indoors, dressing warmly, and avoiding unnecessary travel.

For more information on extreme weather events and their effects on Chicago and New York City, you can visit the National Weather Service’s website at

Precipitation and Other Factors


When comparing the snowfall in Chicago and New York City, it is important to note that both cities experience cold winters and receive a significant amount of snow. However, Chicago tends to receive more snowfall on average than New York City.

According to the National Weather Service, Chicago receives an average annual snowfall of around 36 inches, while New York City receives an average of 25 inches. This means that if you’re a fan of winter wonderlands and enjoy playing in the snow, Chicago might be the better choice for you.


Both Chicago and New York City are known for their windy conditions, but Chicago is often referred to as the “Windy City” for a reason. The city’s location on the shores of Lake Michigan exposes it to strong winds, which can make the already cold temperatures feel even colder.

On the other hand, New York City is less affected by strong winds due to its geographical location. So, if you’re someone who dislikes strong gusts of wind, New York City might be a more suitable option for you.

Lake Effect

One of the unique factors that contribute to the climate difference between Chicago and New York City is the presence of the Great Lakes. Chicago is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, while New York City is situated on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

This difference in proximity to large bodies of water affects the weather patterns in both cities. Chicago experiences a phenomenon called the “lake effect,” where cold air passing over the warmer lake waters creates heavy snowfall and sometimes intense winter storms.

New York City, on the other hand, does not experience the same level of lake effect due to its location.


While both cities experience cold winters and continents extremes, the data shows that when it comes to sheer coldness, Chicago does tend to edge out New York City. Factors like Chicago’s more northern inland location, lack of ocean moderation, and lake effect snow contribute to it being colder annually than the Big Apple. However, both remain vibrant, braving their chilly winters to keep thriving as world-class cities.

Similar Posts