Climate of Massachusetts

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Köppen climate classification maps of Massachusetts.
A blizzard after hitting Boston on February 12, 2006

The climate of Massachusetts is mainly a humid continental climate, with warm summers and cold, snowy winters.[1] Massachusetts is a state located in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Most of its population of 6.4 million live in the Boston metropolitan area. The eastern half of this relatively small state is mostly urban and suburban. Massachusetts is the most populous of the six New England states and ranks third in overall population density and fourth by GDP per capita. Massachusetts receives about 43  inches (1016 mm) of rain annually, fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, slightly wetter during the winter.[2] Summers are warm with average high temperatures in July above 80 °F (26.7 °C) and overnight lows above 60 °F (15.5 °C) common throughout the state.[3] Winters are cold, but generally less extreme on the coast with high temperatures in the winter averaging above freezing even in January, although areas further inland are much colder. The state does have extreme temperatures from time to time with 90 °F (32.2 °C) in the summer and temperatures below 0 °F (-17.8 °C) in the winter not being unusual.[2]

The state has its share of extreme weather, prone to nor'easters and to severe winter storms.[4] Summers can bring thunderstorms, averaging around 30 days of thunderstorm activity per year. Massachusetts averages one tornado per year.[5] Massachusetts, like the entire United States eastern seaboard, is vulnerable to hurricanes. Because its location is farther east in the Atlantic Ocean than states farther south, Massachusetts has suffered a direct hit from a major hurricane three times since 1851, the same number of direct hits suffered by the southern Atlantic state of Georgia.[6] More often hurricanes weakened to tropical storm strength pass near Massachusetts.[6]

With the exception of extreme southern Connecticut, all of New England has a humid continental climate or in a broad transition zone, with hot summers and cold winters. Owing to thick deciduous forests, fall in New England brings bright and colorful foliage, which comes earlier than in other regions, attracting tourism.[7] Springs are generally wet and cloudy. Average rainfall generally ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 mm (40 to 60 in) a year. Snowfall can often exceed 100 in (2,500 mm) annually.[8]

Climate type[edit]

A map of the Humid continental climate zone around the world, including Massachusetts.

Western, central and interior northeastern Massachusetts's climate is the continental climate type.This is found over large areas of land masses in the temperate regions of the mid-latitudes where there is a zone of conflict between polar and tropical air masses. The humid continental climate is marked by variable weather patterns and a large seasonal temperature variance. The seasonal temperature variance can be as great as 91 °F (51 °C), but is typically about 59 °F (33 °C) to 71 °F (39 °C). The temperature difference between the warmest and coldest months increases as one moves further inland and away from the moderating influence of the ocean. Places with a hottest monthly temperature above 50 °F (10 °C) and a coldest monthly temperature below 27 °F (−3 °C), and which do not meet the criteria for an arid climate, are classified as continental.[9] Beverly, Lynn, Cambridge, Boston, and the Interstate 95 corridor southwest of Boston begin a broad transition zone into subtropical or oceanic climates, with slightly warmer winters. The only areas in Massachusetts that are transitioning to an oceanic climate are Cape Ann, parts of the South Shore and South Coast, Cape Cod and the islands. These areas have a moderate influence by the North Atlantic current, which has an impact on Bermuda and the British Isles as well.


Massachusetts sees a wide variety of temperatures throughout the year, the average being as high as 82 °F (27 °C) in the summertime, and as low as 16 °F (-8 °C) in the wintertime.[10] In the capital city of Boston, the hottest month of the year is July, with anpwople gat sp;°F (27 °C) and an average low temperature of 66 °F (18 °C).[10] The coldest month of the year is January, with an average high temperature of 36 °F (2 °C), and an average low temperature of 22 °F (-5 °C).[10] Boston saw 70 °F (21 °C) only twice in recorded history for February. The highest recorded temperature for February was 73°F on February 24, 2017. The maximum temperature recorded in March was 90 °F (32 °C), on March 31, 1998. Spring in Boston can be warm, with temperatures as high as the 90s when winds are offshore, though it is just as possible for a day in late May to remain in the lower 40s due to cool ocean waters. The hottest month is July, with an average high of 82 °F (28 °C) and average low of 66 °F (18 °C), with conditions usually humid.[11] Periods exceeding 90 °F (32 °C) in summer and below 10 °F (−12 °C) in winter are not uncommon, but rarely prolonged. The record high temperature is 104 °F (40 °C), recorded July 4, 1911. The record low temperature is -18 °F (-28 °C), recorded on February 9, 1934.[12]

Cooler temperatures in the summertime are seen in the coastal areas of Massachusetts. On Nantucket, the warmest month of the year is July, with an average high temperature of 76 °F (25 °C) and an average low temperature of 64 °F (17 °C).[13] Winters in coastal Massachusetts are nearly the same as winters on the mainland. In January, the coldest month of the year, Cape Cod has an average high temperature of 37 °F (2 °C) and an average low temperature of 21 °F (-6 °C).[13]

Monthly Normal High and Low Temperatures For Various Massachusetts Cities (°F)
City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Boston[14] 36/22 39/24 46/32 56/40 67/50 77/59 82/66 80/64 72/57 62/46 52/38 42/28
Worcester[10] 31/16 34/18 43/26 54/36 66/46 74/55 79/61 77/60 69/51 58/41 47/32 36/22

Extreme weather[edit]


Massachusetts is often hit with storms called "'nor'easters" during the winter months of the year. A nor'easter is a storm along the East Coast of the United States. The storm is so named because the winds in a nor'easter come from the northeast, especially in the coastal areas of the Northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada. More specifically, it describes a low pressure area whose center of rotation is just off the East Coast and whose leading winds in the left forward quadrant rotate onto land from the northeast. The precipitation pattern is similar to other extratropical storms. Nor'easters also can cause coastal flooding, coastal erosion, hurricane force winds, and heavy snow. Nor'easters can occur at any time of the year but are mostly known for their presence in the winter season.[15] Most Nor'easters start from a low-pressure system that forms in the south, most often the Gulf of Mexico, and are drawn across to the Northeast by the jet stream. The divergence or diffluence in the upper atmosphere caused by the jet stream removes and disperses the rising air at a faster rate than it is replaced at the surface, which, along with the Coriolis Effect, creates and develops a storm. Their northeast track brings them up the East Coast past the mid-Atlantic and New England coastal states. The counterclockwise flow around a low pressure system brings the warm moist oceanic air over land. The warm moist air meets cold air carried southward by the trough. The deepening low enhances the surrounding pressure gradient, which acts to spiral the very different air masses toward each other at an even faster rate. The greater the temperature differences between the two air masses, the greater the turbulence and instability, and the more severe the storm can become.[15][16]

If the nor'easter takes the East Coast track, that usually indicates the presence of a high pressure area in the vicinity of Bermuda.[17] The storm will then reach the North Carolina coast and begin to develop. At this time, the nor'easter can move slightly offshore, which would be the more destructive path, or can move slightly inland, which would present mostly rain. If it takes the offshore path, it would begin to rapidly strengthen. The effects would then start reaching the major cities of the Northeast, such as Boston.[15] The storm, now rapidly intensifying, tracks northward. These storms sometimes intensify during their entire existence. The storm moves northward, following the topography of the East Coast. It usually reaches its peak intensity while off the Canadian coast. The storm then reaches Arctic areas, and can reach intensities equal to a strong hurricane. They then meander throughout the North Atlantic and can last for several weeks.[15]


2011 New England tornado outbreak On June 1, 2011, seven tornadoes appeared in Massachusetts' Connecticut River Valley and southern Maine, destroying large sections of Springfield, Massachusetts and its surrounding region, killing three people, injuring 300 in Springfield alone, and leaving at least 500 people homeless.[3][4][5] Between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m., severe storms developed over western Massachusetts and prompted a tornado warning to be issued at 3:28 p.m. for parts of Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin Counties.[15] About an hour later, another warning was issued for Springfield, Massachusetts and surrounding areas. Within minutes, a touchdown was confirmed near Springfield by local law enforcement and amateur radio operators.[16] This tornado was later rated a strong EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.[17] At one point, this supercell displayed radar characteristics similar to historic supercells that produced violent tornadoes, such as Tuscaloosa, AL (2011) and Moore, OK (1999)[18] Over the next hour, damage was reported as far east as Southbridge from this long track tornado. Other brief touchdowns were reported across the state afterward as well, which caused minor damage. WestSpringfield, Westfield, Springfield, Monson, Hampden, Wilbraham, Brimfield, Sturbridge, Southbridge and Charlton, Massachusetts all sustained damage from the long track EF3 tornado . A total of three (downgraded from the originally reported 4) people were killed as a result of the tornado and at least 200 people were injured from severe weather across the state.[19] The outbreak included the first killer tornado in Massachusetts since the 1995 Great Barrington tornado.[2 The Greater Springfield tornado[edit] On June 1, 2011, a strong, large, and long-lived tornado left a swath of devastation through Hampden County into Worcester County in Western Massachusetts. The tornado proved to be unusually persistent, remaining on the ground for one hour and ten minutes along a path 39 mi (63 km) long, the second longest on record in Massachusetts.[28] The damage path reached a width of 0.5 miles (0.80 km).[28] The city of Springfield was devastated by the June 1, 2011 tornado, as was the southern portion of the Springfield Metropolitan Area – from Westfield to Charlton. Massachusetts has experienced only eight EF3 or higher tornadoes since reliable records began to be kept in 1950, and this was the first on record in Hampden County.[29] Overall, the tornado killed three people, injured about 200 others, and left hundreds homeless.[30] In Springfield alone, approximately 500 buildings were destroyed.[31] Hundreds of other homes were destroyed in surrounding towns, including West Springfield (88 structures) and Monson(77 structures), among others.[32][33] Damage estimates from the storm, to date, exceed $140 million, the majority of which was from the destruction of homes and businesses.[1] Based on a post-storm survey by the National Weather Service office in Boston, the tornado attained maximum estimated winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) as it moved into Springfield, ranking it as a high-end EF3.[28] Around 4:13 p.m., a strong thunderstorm developed over western Hampden County and gradually developed as it tracked eastward at 35 mph (56 km/h). This storm prompted a severe thunderstorm warning for portions of Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester Counties in Massachusetts as well as Hartford, Tolland and WindhamCounties in Connecticut. At the time, Doppler weather radar indicated weak rotation within the storm, a sign of a possible tornado and around[34] 4:17 p.m., a tornado touched down in the Munger Hill section of Westfield, Massachusetts.[28] The previous severe thunderstorm warning was then superseded by a tornado warning at 4:18 p.m. following stronger rotation apparent on radar.[16] Within Westfield, damage was mainly confined to trees but a local school did sustain roof damage. Once the tornado moved out of the City of Westfield and into the City of West Springfield, it rapidly intensified, causing extensive damage to industrial buildings, removing roofs and the upper floors of three-story apartment complexes. Additionally, a few homes collapsed due to the severity of structural damage.[28] Throughout West Springfield, 88 buildings were destroyed and two people were killed.[33] One woman was killed after her home collapsed on top of her while she was protecting her daughter.[35] Another fatality took place when a 5 ft (1.5 m) wide oak tree fell on a vehicle, killing the driver The storm then crossed the Connecticut River and moved into Metro Center, the most urban area of the densely populated City of Springfield,[28]destroying over 500 homes and buildings.[31] The tornado caused extensive damage to Springfield's Connecticut River Walk Park, deforesting much of the park's formerly lush tree canopy and removing large sections of its wrought-iron fences.[37] Some 200-year-old Heritage Trees in Court Squarewere uprooted and commercial brick buildings in Springfield's historic South End sustained extensive damage – large portions of their roofs were removed and numerous, ornate brick facades were completely destroyed.[38] Severe structural damage to apartments and townhouses took place near famous Mulberry Street and due east on the campus of Springfield College. In the wealthy East Forest Park neighborhood, numerous houses were completely destroyed, and Cathedral High School sustained sufficient damage that it was eventually demolished.[39][40] Some debris from Cathedral High School was found roughly 43 mi (69 km) east, discovered in Millbury.[10] Springfield's Sixteen Acresneighborhood, a middle-class neighborhood – Springfield's most suburban in character – was similarly devastated.[41] Continuing eastward, the tornado tracked through Wilbraham, causing near-total deforestation and extensive structural damage. The storm then moved through the center of Monson, damaging nearly every structure in the area. Many homes were badly damaged, some of which were completely flattened.[28] A total of 77 buildings were destroyed,[33] some completely. In some locations, trees were debarked and had most of their branches removed. Some unanchored homes in town slid from their foundations and collapsed. The roof of the old Monson High School, which is now the town's police building, was also completely destroyed.[28] In Natick, roughly 60 mi (97 km) from Monson, a picture from the town was found.[42] Shortly before 5:00 p.m.,[43] the tornado moved through Brimfield State Forest where it reached its maximum width of 0.5 mi (0.80 km). Thousands of trees were snapped and uprooted in this area.[28] Near Brimfield, the Village Green campground, a trailer park, was almost completely destroyed with 95 out of 96 trailers destroyed. Here, one person was killed after her RVwas overturned by the tornado. Several homes were completely swept from their foundation in the Brimfield area as well.[33] Losses in this area exceeded $1 million.[44] Around 5:09 p.m., another tornado warning was issued to include portions of Norfolk County, Massachusetts and Providence County, Rhode Island.[45] The tornado then struck the Sturbridge area, where thousands of trees were downed and multiple homes were damaged. Significant damage took place to both buildings and trees for several miles before the storm moved into Southbridge. There, the Southbridge Airport sustained some damage and aircraft were picked up and thrown into the nearby woods. Once through the airport, the tornado ripped through the Rosemeade Apartments and devastated the neighborhood of Brookside Road, Charlton Street and Harrington Road at 5:18pm before it dissipated in southwestern Charlton at 5:27 p.m.[28]

Massachusetts is seldom hit by tornadoes, but has been part of one particularly notable event, the Flint-Worcester tornado outbreak sequence, on June 9, 1953. The massive Worcester tornado was on the ground for nearly an hour and one half. In that period it traveled 46 miles (74 km), reached 1-mile (1.6 km) in width and injured 1,300 people. At 5:08 P.M., the tornado entered Worcester and grew to an unprecedented width of one mile.[18] Damage was extensive in Worcester (second largest city in Massachusetts) and in some areas equaled the worst damage in any U.S. tornado.[18] Hardest-hit areas included Assumption College, where a priest and two nuns were killed. The main building's 3-foot (0.91 m)-thick brick walls were reduced by three floors, and the landmark tower lost three stories.[18] The nearby Burncoat Hill neighborhood saw heavy devastation (especially on its western slope), but it was the Uncatena-Great Brook Valley neighborhoods to the east of Burncoat Hill that were leveled, houses simply vanishing and debris swept clean from the sites. Forty people died in the Uncatena-Great Brook Valley areas alone.[18] A 12-ton bus was picked up, rolled over several times and thrown against the newly constructed Curtis Apartments in Great Brook Valley, resulting in the deaths of two passengers. The Curtis Apts. blueprints were blown all the way to Duxbury, 75 miles (121 km) away. Across Boylston St. from the Curtis Apts., the Brookside Home Farm (a city-operated dairy facility and laundry) sustained total damage, with six men killed and the loss of its herd of 80 Holsteins. Wrecked houses and bodies were blown into Lake Quinsigamond. The six fatalities at Brookside were the most in any particular building in the tornado. Ninety-four people were killed.[18]

The 2011 New England tornado outbreak spawned six tornadoes which killed three people, injured over two hundred, and caused extensive property damage in central and western Massachusetts.

Tropical cyclones[edit]

Hurricane Gloria caused 7 deaths in Massachusetts, as well as 84,000 power outages.

Massachusetts has been hit by many notable tropical cyclones. One of these was the New England Hurricane of 1938. The hurricane killed over 682 people,[19] damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at $4.7 billion (2005 US dollars).[20] In 1951 damaged trees and buildings were still to be seen in the affected areas.[21] The eye of the storm followed the Connecticut River north into Massachusetts, where the winds and flooding killed 99 people.[22] In Springfield, the river rose to 6 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m) above flood stage, causing significant damage. Up to 6 inches (152 mm) of rain fell across western Massachusetts, which combined with over 4 inches (102 mm) that had fallen a few days earlier produced widespread flooding.[22] Residents of Ware were stranded for days, and relied on air-dropped food and medicine.[22] After the flood receded, the town's Main Street was left a chasm in which sewer pipes could be seen. To the east, the surge left Falmouth and New Bedford under 8 feet (2.4 m) of water. Two-thirds of all the boats in New Bedford harbor sank. The Blue Hills Observatory registered sustained winds of 121 mph (195 km/h) and a peak gust of 186 mph (299 km/h).[22]

Hurricane Gloria glancingly struck Massachusetts in 1985. On August 19, 1991, Hurricane Bob, a Category 2 hurricane, hit southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard hard, killing 18 people and injuring 190, as well as causing billions of dollars in damage.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Humid continental climate map". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2008-07-01.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b "Climate Data (Massachusetts)". NOAA. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  3. ^ "Boston, MA- History and Almanac". Weather Underground. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  4. ^ Multi-Community Environmental Storm Observatory (2006). "Nor'easters". Archived from the original on 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  5. ^]]. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ a b US Mainland Strikes per State 1851-2004. National Hurricane Center. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  7. ^ "New England's Fall Foliage". Discover New England. Archived from the original on 2008-06-21. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  8. ^ "New England," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006
  9. ^ Peel, M. C.; Finlayson B. L.; McMahon, T. A. (2007). "Updated world map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification". Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 11: 1633–1644. doi:10.5194/hess-11-1633-2007. ISSN 1027-5606. (direct: Final Revised Paper)
  10. ^ a b c d "Daily temperature and precipitation records at Worcester, MA". NOAA. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  11. ^ "Boston Daily Normals". NWS Taunton, MA. 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  12. ^ "Boston Temperature Records". NWS Taunton, MA. 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  13. ^ a b "MONTHLY AVERAGES for Hyannis, MA". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  14. ^ "Daily temperature and precipitation records at Boston, MA". NOAA. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  15. ^ a b c d Multi-Community Environmental Storm Observatory (2006). "Nor'easters". Archived from the original on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  16. ^ Storm-E (2007). "Nor'easters". Archived from the original on 2007-06-26. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  17. ^ Weather channel (2007). "Nor'easters". Weather Channel. Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  18. ^ a b c d e Pombo, Jamy. "Worcester Tornado: 50 Years Later". The Boston (WCVB). Archived from the original on 2008-06-02. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
  19. ^ Scotti, R. A. "Sudden Sea - The Great Hurricane of 1938". Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 2003. Archived from the original on January 2, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-30.
  20. ^ "The Great Hurricane of 1938". The Boston Globe. 2005-07-19. Retrieved 2007-11-30.
  21. ^ Lane, F.W. The Elements Rage (David & Charles 1966, ISBN ), p.16
  22. ^ a b c d Galvin, John. "The New England Hurricane: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, September 1938". Popular Mechanics. Archived from the original on 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2008-07-03.

External links[edit]