The United States experiences a wide variety of climates in each of its regions. Some climates are much colder than others and some are much drier than others. Some parts of the United States experience all four seasons, while others experience extended summers. Winters are milder in the South than they are in the North and some winters in the West are drier than ones in the East.
Given this, some cities in the United States receive more snowfall than other cities. Several factors affect heavy snowfall: moisture, front, and atmospheric instability. In order for clouds and snow to form, there must be adequate moisture in the air. Second, a front is necessary to push the air up to an altitude ideal for rapid snow production, typically where the atmosphere reaches 0°F to -10°F. Lastly, an unstable atmosphere pushes the snow upwards more quickly, resulting in faster snow production and heavier snowfalls.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 2018-2019 winter was the wettest winter on record in the United States. The NOAA National Climate Report and information from the National Weather Service were used to determine the snowiest cities in the United States based on data from December 2018 to February 2019.
The ten snowiest cities in the United States are:
- Caribou, ME
- Sault Ste. Marie, MI
- Flagstaff, AZ
- Buffalo, NY
- Syracuse, NY
- Burlington, VT
- Duluth, MN
- Erie, PA
- Rochester, NY
- Nome, AK
The snowiest city in the United States is Caribou, Maine, which received 114.2 inches (9.5 feet) of snow during the 2018-2019 winter season. Caribou is the most northeastern point of the United States, located near the Canadian border. The consistently cold winters make snow production possible and plenty.
It’s no surprise that a majority of these states are located in the northern parts of the country, except for Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff is the third-snowiest city in the U.S., receiving 95.7 inches (7.9 feet) of snow this past winter. This is likely because Flagstaff is at a high elevation of nearly 7,000 feet, which is higher than Denver Colorado at 5,280 feet.
Some cities, such as Sault Ste. Marie and Syracuse, get lake effect snow. Lake effect snow is snow that is produced when a cold air mass moves across large expanses of warm lake water. In the United States, this is common in states surrounding the Great Lakes, as cold air masses from Canada move across those regions producing heavy snowfalls.