Let's do a quick forecast before delving into a review of last year's weather. Today: cold. Lots of radiational cooling last night dropped the temperature down to 13 degrees overnight. It won't warm up much today. Upper 20s at best. Warmer air will arrive tomorrow, after a slight chance of flurries tonight. Thursday's high should be in the low 40s as the center of the cold air mass moves to the east of the city. Friday will be warmer still and Saturday's high looks like it will return to near 50. It's too soon to worry but some sort of storm looks like it will affect us on Sunday.
2011 contained more eventful weather than a year really ought to have. The year started with a foot of snow on the ground following the Boxing Day blizzard. Two more snowstorms brought three more feet of snow, making it the snowiest January and the second snowiest month on record. It was six degrees on the morning of January 24th, the coldest day in seven years. At that point it seemed like we were in for a cold, snowy winter. Snow was on the ground for 53 consecutive days, finally disappearing on Feburary 18th, a day that hit a high of 68 degrees.
Then things got very normal. Aside from a record high on March 18th not much happened weatherwise until July. That month was the fifth warmest July, and sixth warmest of any month, ever recorded. The heat topped out on the 22nd with a record 104 degrees in Central Park (108 in Newark!). The next day wasn't much cooler with a record-tying 100.
Rainfall, not heat, was the story in August. Thanks to nearly six inches of rain on August 14th, followed by nearly seven inches from Hurricane Irene, August became, by far, the rainest month ever measured in the city. More than five inches of rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee in early September added to the late summer sogginess. Last year wound up with 72.81 inches of precipitation, the second wettest behind the controversial 1983 record.
Other than January, the only month that was cooler than normal was March, and at -0.2 degrees below average it was barely so. Other than July none of the warm months were especially warm, until November. October was the snowiest October on record. Sure, it was only 2.9 inches on the 28th, but a record is a record and the damage just a couple of inches of snow inflicts when leaves are still on the trees is impressive.
Following the October snow the strangest thing happened. Look at this video of infrared satellite images for the past couple of months:
See that! Since the October snow storm after storm has come out of the southwest, interrupted by only a couple of brief visits by cold Canadian air masses. That circulation change has brought almost nothing but warm air to the city. November was the fourth warmest November and last month the 5th warmest December. Those two really warm months pushed 2011's average temperature to 56.4 degrees—enough to put last year in a tie with 2002 as the 9th warmest year since records began in 1869.