What's the Weather Like in Massachusetts?
Situated in the southern half of New England and reaching miles out into the Atlantic Ocean is Massachusetts, which has quite a diverse topography for such a small state. There are mountains and rolling hills in the West, a massive urban and suburban center in the East, and just beyond that, a wispy peninsula that forms Cape Cod. And there's just as much variety in the state's weather; if you crave warm, sunny summers and frigid, snowy winters, Massachusetts just might be your happy place.
A Climate for All Seasons
Like much of the Northeast and Upper Midwest, Massachusetts is predominantly a humid continental climate, characterized by warm summers and cold winters with year-round precipitation. In the hottest weeks of July and August, average high temperatures reach into the low 80s F, and in January and February, average lows range in the 20s. During winter, Coastal Massachusetts is significantly warmer than the higher elevation areas to the west, but the winter precipitation tends to be wetter.
Precipitation is distributed very evenly throughout the year in Massachusetts, usually ranging between three and four inches per month. Rain and thunderstorms are common during the warmer months, and snow, sleet and freezing rain are all but guaranteed each winter.
Prepare Early for Year-Round Storms
Massachusetts is perfectly situated to take the brunt of nor'easters, powerful storms that can pack hurricane force winds, heavy snowfall and extreme low visibility. As an East Coast state, it's also in the line of fire for hurricanes and tropical storms. All residents of Massachusetts should have weather emergency plans in place for large, paralyzing coastal storms that can occur year-round.
In winter, major storms can strike with little warning. Massachusetts residents should be prepared to shelter in place for several days if necessary, and should keep fully stocked emergency kits with bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, a radio and other essentials. There must be a plan in place in the event of a loss of home heating, especially if the home relies on electric heat.
During the warmer months, there is often more warning when it comes to major approaching storms. This extra time, along with the absence of snow and ice on the roads, makes evacuation a more viable option for staying safe from hurricanes and tropical storms. Residents should have a plan to protect their homes and shelter in place if necessary, but it's smart to also have a plan for packing up and heading west in advance of an approaching storm.
With its tendency toward wet, heavy snowfalls, especially in and around Boston, Massachusetts residents need to equip themselves to get around safely. Sidewalks and parking lots may be slippery, so it's smart to invest in a good pair of boots or even cleats that can be strapped to the outside of shoes. Walking outdoors and taking public transportation is a daily fact of life for many Boston residents, so you must also have adequate winter gear.
When it comes to your home, winter weather preparation and regular maintenance can make a big difference. Depending on where you live, shoveling snow on your personal property and the sidewalk in front of your house may be a matter of law. In Boston, for example, sidewalks and curb ramps must be cleared within three hours of fresh snowfall, or within three hours of sunrise after an overnight snowfall. The paths must also be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Failure to comply can result in fines. So it's important to be prepared with a snow shovel and sidewalk salt, and to make arrangements for snow removal if you're unable to do it yourself.
Stay Comfortable While Saving Money on Utilities
While you're sure to see a few summer days in the 80s or even the 90s, the dog days of summer are fairly short in Massachusetts, and therefore shouldn't make your air conditioning bill a major issue. The state's long, cold winters, on the other hand, could really cost you if you have an inefficient heating system.
Decades ago, most homes in Massachusetts used heating oil to keep their homes warm. But since the 1970s, the state has gradually shifted toward natural gas, which accounted for heating more than 50 percent of Massachusetts homes according to a 2018 U.S. Census Bureau report. More than a quarter of homes in the state are still heated by oil or kerosene, however. Electric furnaces account for just over 15 percent. The trend toward natural gas has been driven by low, stable natural gas prices in contrast with more volatile heating oil prices, and because natural gas is a cleaner burning heating fuel.
Because home heating is such a significant expense in Massachusetts, it's important to perform annual maintenance on all heating systems, change air filters regularly, make sure adequate insulation is installed and seal air leaks with weather stripping, caulk or spray foam.