Chicago is known for its cold winter temperatures, particularly when cold air from Lake Michigan adds extreme wind chill that turns the Windy City into an even windier (and colder) one. But what about snow? Does Chicago get a lot of snow? How much snow is it?
In this article I’m going to share with you how much snow falls in Chicago during the year. I’ll also compare it to a few other cities in Illinois as well as in the United States to get a better understanding of Chicago yearly snowfall averages.
What’s the Average Annual Snowfall in Chicago?
According to weather data provided by NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and recorded at Chicago Midway International Airport, Chicago winters get on average 38.8 inches of snow (99 cm).
Snow falls between October until April when average temperatures finally get high enough that any snow would rapidly melt. This means quite a few months of winter weather, much longer than the meteorological winter. On average, Chicago records 28.2 snowy days (with at least 0.1 inches of snow).
Snowfall in Chicago by Month
Here’s the breakdown per each month according to the National Weather Service:
- October: 0.1 inches of snow, 0.2 snowy days.
- November: 1.5 inches of snow, 1.6 snowy days.
- December: 7.9 inches of snow, 6.3 snowy days.
- January: 12.5 inches of snow, 8.9 snowy days.
- February: 10.1 inches of snow, 6.4 snowy days.
- March: 5.7 inches of snow, 3.9 snowy days.
- April: 1 inch of snow, 0.9 snowy days.
January is the snowiest month and October the least snowy one. As a curious fact, some record days in Chicago recorded up to 17.2 inches of snow in a single day. If so much snow fell one day in, for example, February (as it was the case on February 1, 2015), based on averages that would be over two months worth of snow (February and March) in one day!
How Much Snow Falls in Other Major Illinois Cities?
The answer as to whether Chicago gets a lot of snow may be easier to interpret if we compare the winter season in Chicago with average measurable snowfall and average snowy days in other cities.
Here’s how the amount of snow in Chicago stacks up when compared to other major cities in Illinois:
- Aurora: 27.9 inches of snow (10.9 fewer than Chicago), 17.1 snowy days (11.1 fewer days)
- Joliet: 16.9 inches of snow (21.9 fewer than Chicago), 12 snowy days (16.2 fewer days)
- Rockford: 37.1 inches of snow (1.7 fewer than Chicago), 28.1 snowy days (0.1 fewer days)
- Elgin: 31.2 inches of snow (7.6 fewer than Chicago), 21.9 snowy days (6.3 fewer days)
- Springfield: 21.8 inches of snow (17 fewer than Chicago), 16.3 snowy days (11.9 fewer days)
- Peoria: 26.2 inches of snow (12.6 fewer than Chicago), 20 snowy days (8.2 fewer days)
This data indicates that among the major Illinois cities, Chicago is the snowiest city. This means that Chicago does get a lot of snow for Illinois standards, with dependable seasonal snowfall.
For data on sunny days in Chicago, check out my article How Many Sunny Days Does Chicago Get Per Year?
You may also be interested in my article on the warmest cities in Illinois.
How Much Snow Falls in Other Major Cities in the United States?
We can also look for climate data from other major cities in the country that get snow and see how the average snowfall there compares to Chicago.
- New York City: 29.8 inches of snow (9 fewer than Chicago), 11.4 snowy days (16.8 fewer days)
- Philadelphia: 23.1 inches of snow (15.7 fewer than Chicago), 12 snowy days (16.2 fewer days)
- Denver: 49 inches of snow (10.2 more than Chicago), 31.4 snowy days (3.2 more days)
- Columbus: 28.2 inches of snow (10.6 fewer than Chicago), 28.3 snowy days (0.1 more days)
- Indianapolis: 25.5 inches of snow (13.3 fewer than Chicago), 22.4 snowy days (5.8 fewer days)
Out of these major cities, the only city that has more snow than Chicago is Denver. This means that Chicago gets quite a lot of snow among the biggest cities with a colder climate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Winter in Chicago is known for low temperatures, dipping into bitterly cold weather when cold wind blows from Lake Michigan. The coldest temperature during the day is in January when the average high temperature reaches only 31.6 °F. Nighttime temperatures are much colder, going on average as low as 18.8 °F in the coldest month.
During the core four-month period when it snows the most, you can expect snow on average between 4-9 days per month.
Chicago’s snowiest month is January with 11.3 inches of snow and 8.5 snowy days.
Chicago gets seven months with potential snow, though the core months are between December and March.
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