Massachusetts has a mainly humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with warm, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. Southeastern coastal areas show shades of a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with relatively mild winters. The Atlantic Ocean stretches from the northeast to the southeast, while Rhode Island and Connecticut in the south, New York in the west, Vermont and New Hampshire in the north form the borders of the state. Massachusetts lies in the New England region of the northeastern United States. The distance from the relatively mild ocean waters, elevation, and terrain influence the climate in the different parts of the state.
Massachusetts, the Bay State, lies at an average elevation of 150 meters, with Mount Greylock as the highest peak at 1064 meters. The topography consists of mountains in the west and rolling hills, flatlands with marshes, lakes, and ponds along the coastal plains and the central region. Three climatic divisions prominently split the state. The Western division consists of low mountains of the Berkshire Hills and the Taconic Range. The Coastal division consists of a 10 to 20 miles wide strip along the Atlantic Coast. The Central division consists of flatlands and mountains, such as the southern White Mountains of the Monadnock region. Including the southern and eastern shores of the Cape Cod Bay, the coastline is 200 miles long.
Massachusetts lies in the belt of prevailing westerlies, with various air masses interacting with each other regularly. Temperature ranges vary significantly, daily and annually, and even in the same season over the years. Summers have comfortable temperatures between 70°F (21.1°C) to 85°F (29.4°C) at the peak of July. Five to fifteen hot days, with temperatures more than 90°F (32.2°C), are typical, but the nights remain mild. Cape Cod and offshore islands are generally cooler than the interior. Winter temperatures vary significantly across regions, with five to fifteen days of subzero temperatures in the western mountains. Spring is wet and transitions from cold to warm with the advance of the season. Autumn is temperate, but the latter part of the season often encounters frost and ice.
The average annual rainfall in Massachusetts ranges from 40" (1016mm) along the coast to 50" (1270mm) in the western division. The distribution of rainfall is even throughout the year, and there are no dry or wet periods. Thunderstorms bring local precipitation in the summer, while winter storms bring icy rain and snow. Snowfall is heavy in the winter and ranges from 25" (635mm) over Cape Cod to 80" (2032mm) in the west. At least one snowstorm in the winter registers greater than 5" (127mm) of snowfall. Two hundred days in the year are sunny to partly sunny, with a cloud cover of less than 80%. Frost is a regular occurrence in the winter and lasts from the latter part of the fall to early spring in many places. Dense fog is common over the Cape Cod Bay and offshore islands.
New Bedford and Chester recorded Massachusetts’s highest temperature of 107°F (41.7°C) on August 2, 1975, while Chester also holds the record of the lowest temperature of -35°F (-37.2°C) on January 12, 1981.
The best time to visit Massachusetts
The best time to visit Massachusetts is from May in late spring to mid-autumn in October. Temperatures are warm by mid-May, with a marked decrease in storm activities. Summers are warm and beautiful on the seaside as well as the mountains. Cruise vacations are popular at the peak of the summer and include attractive destinations like Cape Ann, Boston, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Numerous state parks, inland waterways, and coastal beaches attract the maximum number of tourists during the pleasant summer weather. Autumn is colorful and draws crowds from all over the United States.
The worst time to visit Massachusetts
The worst time to visit Massachusetts is from November to February, when the weather is severely cold. Cold fronts are frequent, and the first of the snowstorms usually occur by November. The resulting accumulation of snow taxes the snow plows and the state to the hilt. Mountain trails and state parks close for the winter as chilly winds and massive snow act as significant barriers. Roads are slippery and icy and even shut down in case of massive snow accumulation. Winter days are short, and the skies are often gloomy in the absence of intense sunshine. Winter is a treat for snow lovers.
Massachusetts is prone to wildfires, thunderstorms, hurricanes, floods, droughts, and snowstorms. Thunderstorms are frequent in the spring and summer, while tropical storms are occasional. Flooding occasionally occurs in the spring season due to heavy rainfall and melting of the deep snow cover. The central and western divisions frequently record 100" (2540mm) of snowfall during the winter. Boston recorded its snowiest winter in 1997-98, with 144" (3657.6mm) of snow. Nor'easters bring a heavy amount of snow and precipitation in the winter.
The Blizzard of February 6-7, 1978 deposited 27.1" (688.3mm) in Boston, while Milton recorded the heaviest 24-hour snowfall of 28.2" (716.3mm) on February 24, 1969, in another snowstorm.
Weather in January
January is usually the coldest month of the year in Massachusetts as the temperatures drop to the trough of the year. The average low temperatures are in the frigid 10°F (-12.2°C) to 24°F (-4.4°C), as several days register subzero readings. Boston, the capital in the east, is between 22°F (-5.6°C) to 36°F (2.2°C), while Lanesboro in the west has one of the coldest temperatures between 10°F (-12.2°C) to 29°F (-1.7°C). January is the snowiest month of the year, with an average of 15" (381mm) to 20" (508mm) of snow statewide. Even the cruise season takes a hit as Cape Cod, and the offshore islands receive up to 7" (177.8mm) of snow. The skiing season is at its peak as the rugged mountain slopes shine with powdery snow. The numbing cold makes it mandatory to wear warm winter coats such as those of the Nanooks of the north. Strong winds and bitter cold make the winters dreary as the roads become routinely impassable amid poor visibility, ice, and snow in Massachusetts in January.
Weather in February
February sees dark skies in Massachusetts, with no respite from the severe cold. The snowfall is substantial, with Worthington in the central region recording up to 18" (457.2mm). The average temperatures are in the cold 12°F (-11.1°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) zone, as many places experience freezing days and nights. The sun is absent regularly as dark clouds cover the skies. The severe cold makes it challenging to step outside, as snow blowers and snow plows regularly clear the pavements, driveways, and roads. A warm burst can give a pleasant surprise during the winter briefly, but the majority of the days are cold and dark in the absence of intense sunshine. Nor’easters bring heavy snow and icy precipitation in the winter. Stack fuel for generators, batteries, and food as storms can cause major power outages. Locals enjoy ice skating, snow tubing, skiing, and other activities at the slightest opportunity of warmth. Watch out for snowstorms in February in Massachusetts.
Weather in March
March is cold in Massachusetts with the signs of spring by the second half of the month. Day temperatures warm up to register in the 40°F (4.4°C) to 48°F (8.9°C), while the nights are below freezing between 21°F (-6.1°C) to 31°F (-0.6°C). March is rainy to the tune of 4" (101.6mm) to 6" (152.4mm), with wetter conditions in the southeast. The snowfall registers between 5" (127mm) to 15" (381mm) in many places and provides grounds for snow activities in early spring. The icy Nashoba Valley attracts snow lovers incessantly. Maple sugaring season begins in March, which also sees an uptick in fishing and kayaking activities. The roads and trails form a combination of white, black, brown, and occasionally green colors. The mixing of severely cold air from the Arctic, the warm and humid air from the Gulf of Mexico, and the cold air from the North Atlantic shores bring unpredictable weather and frequent storms. March asks for layered clothing in Massachusetts to withstand the chilly conditions.
Weather in April
April is wet in Massachusetts as the advance of the spring seasons brings warm days and cold nights. The average high temperatures are between a warm 51°F (10.6°C) to 59°F (15°C), while the nights are cold in the 32°F (0°C) to 41°F (5°C) zone. Worcester in the central region has mild temperatures in the 37°F (2.8°C) to 55°F (12.8°C) range, but the Bay area is warmer between 39°F (3.9°C) to 56°F (13.3°C). Early tourists receive significant discounts on a visit to Cape Cod and the offshore islands but have to bear damp and cold days. The snowfall is light up to 4" (101.6mm) in many places and typically records for 2 to 4 days in April. Rain replaces snow and ice in the early spring season as sunny days alternate with cloudy and dark ones. The ground assumes a green texture with the blossoming of flowers and vanishing snow cover. Be careful while driving on the slushy roads, with the frequent thawing and freezing cycles in April in Massachusetts.
Weather in May
May is warm and beautiful in Massachusetts, with the spring season at its peak. The missing sun is back in the skies, and the long hours of daylight spread joy over the landscape. The peak of the spring season brings back the migratory birds with the promise of abundant freshwater in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Blossoming flowers and a green landscape create a lovely atmosphere full of energy and activity. May registers 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) of rain, but the snowfall is on its last legs, and the southeastern shores rarely receive any. Worthington in the west has comfortable temperatures between 42°F (5.6°C) to 66°F (18.9°C), while New Bedford in the east is pleasant in the range of 49°F (9.4°C) to 67°F (19.4°C). Biking, hiking, kayaking, and fishing gather steam in the 267 hours of bright sunshine in May. Keep in mind the unpredictable nature of rain in New England while outdoors. May is an excellent time to beat the summer crowds in Massachusetts.
Weather in June
June begins the delectable summer season in Massachusetts with warm conditions amid bright sunshine. Day temperatures cross 85°F (29.4°C) in the Cape regularly as blue skies attract visitors from everywhere. Sunny days draw crowds in the state parks and zoos, as families enjoy summer vacations in the fair weather. The mild ocean water temperatures offer plenty from swimming to surfing and snorkeling, or just lying lazily on the beach under the fabulous sun. The western mountains are a shade cooler than the coastal areas and provide exciting opportunities for hiking and camping. The Mohawk Trail along the northern Berkshires is one of the best in the country for scenic views via automobile during the long days of June. The increase in humidity is more along the coast than the highlands. An odd tornado or a tropical storm hits the state occasionally. Light summer clothing is generally sufficient during June days in Massachusetts, but check the weather forecast to avoid surprises.
Weather in July
July is typically the hottest month of the year in Massachusetts, with the average high temperatures in the 75°F (23.9°C) to 85°F (29.4°C) range. Temperatures touch 95°F (35°C) in places like Amherst and Lowell in the central region, while the Atlantic Ocean keeps the conditions relatively cooler in Hyannis, Cape Cod, and Nantucket. The clocks are set faster by an hour from early spring to late fall to take advantage of the increased sunshine that records 301 hours in July. The long days see the time of sunset extend to 9 pm. Always keep the thought of rain in mind while going out in Massachusetts. The ocean temperatures are warm in the 65°F (18.3°C) to 75°F (23.9°C), but swimming is pleasant both in the sea and the lakes. The considerable variation in temperatures in the year mandates an air conditioner during the summer when the nights are uncomfortable due to high humidity. Massachusetts registers high tourist numbers at the peak of the summer in July.
Weather in August
August is warm to hot in the summer of Massachusetts with many sunny days. The average high temperatures are in the 73°F (22.8°C) to 81°F (27.2°C), but the heat does not cross to the scorching threshold of scorching. Cummington Hill in the west averages between 56°F (13.3°C) to 76°F (24.4°C), while Plymouth in the east is between 60°F (15.6°C) to 81°F (27.2°C). The long, hot days end in short, temperate nights. Mornings are perfect for cycling, walking, and jogging. Rain is light to moderate, often less than 2" (50.8mm), except when the frequency of thunderstorms increases significantly. The growing season chugs along nicely with cranberries, apples, and maple products at the forefront of production. Sunny days and clear skies provide fantastic stargazing opportunities, and campgrounds rarely remain vacant in the summer. Insect repellents and rain jackets are handy when camping for the nights. People with pollen allergies should take precautions in the hot weather. Hay fever is at its peak in August in Massachusetts.
Weather in September
September brings the pleasant autumn season to Massachusetts, with frequent, gentle breezes during the evening. The days are warm, with bright sunshine and light rainfall in the early fall season. The sunshine lasts for a daily 8 hours as the leaves start to change colors by mid-September. The average temperatures are in the comfortable 46°F (7.8°C) to 73°F (22.8°C) range and the nights tend to be cooler in the western mountains compared to the sunny Cape. Apples, cranberries, and pumpkin patches dot the landscape during the harvest season. The fall season is an ideal time to motor along the scenic byways specially designed to explore the beauty of the region. Wind speeds in the moderate limit of 10 to 15 miles per hour provide a majestic experience while driving on the colorful country roads. A light jacket serves well during windy evenings and also takes care of the cold. September is the peak season for hunting and fishing in Massachusetts.
Weather in October
October reaches the zenith of colors, with the fall foliage at its peak in Massachusetts. The 7 hours of daily sunshine keeps the days warm, but the evenings cool rapidly. The fall foliage is at its peak with brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple. The western forests and highlands are particularly impressive during fall, and see a large number of tourist footfalls in October. The average high temperatures are in the range of 55°F (12.8°C) to 60°F (15.6°C), while average low temperatures register around 35°F (1.7°C) to 48°F (8.9°C) statewide. The skies are partly cloudy, with rainy afternoons and breezy evenings. The days become short by the end of October, and the leaves start to fall. Wildlife is active in the autumn, as the abundant number of ducks, deer, and wild turkeys keep the hunting season alive. It is fine to wear regular clothes during the day, but evenings ask for warm clothes. October is the last month of temperate weather in Massachusetts.
Weather in November
November lies at the end of the autumn season in Massachusetts and brings cold temperatures along with the falling leaves. The skies are dark as the daily sunlight lasts only for 4 hours. Brockton, Haverhill, Hingham, and Marblehead in the east average between 29°F (-1.7°C) to 53°F (11.7°C), while the western part of the state is between 27°F (-2.8°C) to 49°F (9.4°C). The light rainfall brings the first flurries of snow to the region. November records snowfall to the tune of 2" (50.8mm) to 4" (101.6mm) in the majority of the state. Trees start to show bare limbs with the onset of the winter in the second half of the month. The first of the snowstorms register in November as the polar air masses invade the state. Freezing nights are typical, consequently wearing winter coats, caps, and gloves is greatly advised. Apart from snow lovers and adventurers, the tourist numbers fall alarmingly by the end of the autumn. November is the time to move away from Massachusetts.
Weather in December
December begins the cold winter season in Massachusetts with gloomy skies and abundant snow. The average high temperatures are in the 33°F (0.6°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) range, while the average low temperatures lie in the 17°F (-8.3°C) to 31°F (-0.6°C) zone. Western Massachusetts receives heavy snowfall, and the trend continues in the central region, with the least amount of snow in the coastal belt. The cold air masses from the Arctic sweep the state without any restrictions as the valleys tend to hold on the cold air. The ocean waters are cold but above freezing and keep the temperatures in check in the nearby regions. The sunshine is at a premium even during the warmest days, which makes it mandatory to wear heavy winter coats. Heaters run incessantly at homes and offices, and it takes considerable time to heat the interior of vehicles in order to start and operate them. White Christmas is common in Massachusetts during the cold days of December.