Is Chicago Really That Cold?

June 13, 2023

Chicago is lucky enough to experience all four seasons, with moderate springs, warm summers, beautiful autumns and cold, snowy winters. Its continental climate is affected by various factors, including Lake Michigan, the sun, weather systems and urban areas. The winters in the Windy City can be especially rough, with brutal windchills. Read on to learn more about this cold season and how you can prepare yourself for surviving Chicago winters.

Winter Temperatures

Is Chicago really that cold? The city typically experiences temperatures of 30 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters usually last from late November to early March, with the first snowfall typically occurring in November. The city gets an average snowfall of about 37 inches each year.  

In some cases, Chicago winters can bring temperatures that drop into the negatives. The coldest temperature of -27 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded on January 20, 1985, at O’Hare International Airport. In 2019, temperatures dropped more than 20 degrees below zero in some areas due to the polar vortex that swept through the Midwest. During this time, the city was known as “Chiberia.” The polar vortex at the North Pole is a low-pressure area of swirling cold air. This area expands during winter and sends frigid air south, which can cause negative temperatures in Chicago.

How Lake Michigan Affects Chicago’s Weather

Lake Michigan greatly influences Chicago’s climate. Its large thermal mass can cause cooler summers and warmer winters. The Windy City can also be hit with lake effect snow during the winter months. This occurs when cold winds from the north pass over the relatively warm Lake Michigan, which causes the air mass to soak up moisture. As the wind blows over more water, it picks up more moisture. Then, when the wet, warm air mass reaches land and cools, lake effect snow is produced.

How to Prepare for Chicago’s Harsh Winters

Chicago winters are not for the faint of heart. They require the right preparation so that you are ready for the bitter windchills and snow. Here are some helpful tips that can get you through the winter season:

  • Layer up: Dressing in layers can help keep warm and toasty as you’re walking through the city. For example, thermal leggings and other thermal apparel can be layered under clothing. Be sure to also invest in a warm coat and don’t forget a hat, scarf and gloves.
  • Prepare an emergency kit: Keep an emergency kit on hand at home and in your car.
  • Winterize your car: Ensure your vehicle is ready for icy road conditions. Always keep a snow brush and ice scraper in your car.
  • Invest in a humidifier: Since winters can be drying, investing in a good humidifier can help keep moisture in the air of your apartment/home.

The frigid cold doesn’t stop Chicagoans from enjoying the picturesque snow, fun holiday traditions and magical light displays around the city. If you’re looking for an apartment in one of Chicago’s most desirable neighborhoods, Mo2 Properties has you covered. Browse our available rentals or reach out to us for more information.

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