Although the shadow of climate change hangs darkly over the future of the environment, some cities on earth appear to inevitably see a large amount of snow. This might seem paradoxical, considering the ‘warming’ aspect of global warming, but most scientists link a rise in temperature with all aspects of extreme and unusual weather in the past years. The results of climate change will differ depending on geographical location.
Some cities will experience less precipitation and warmer weather, while other regions will witness more extreme and unmanageable versions of the cold weather patterns they’ve historically experienced.
All of the snowiest cities with populations of 100,000 or greater exist in the northern hemisphere, including locales in the United States, Japan and Canada. These places are far enough north to experience consistent, seasonal cold and close to sources of moisture that drive the frozen precipitation in these cities. Lakes, seas and other large bodies of water also drive blizzard activity, occasionally burying these cities in feet of snow. This may cause serious issues for the inhabitants of these cities, but it does result in some stunning views.
10. Buffalo, United States – 95 inches
Located just east of Lake Erie, which borders the winter wonderland known as Canada, Buffalo experiences more snow than most major Canadian cities, which tend to be known for long, snowy winters.
In addition to being close to arctic weather patterns, Buffalo residents also experience increased production of snow due to the meteorological pattern known as “lake-effect snow”, which drastically increases overall snowfall. Buffalonians experience some of the most intense blizzards, which have often resulted in several feet of snow, burying vehicles, enticing looters and cancelling any activity that doesn’t involve shovelling snow.
9. Rochester, United States – 99 inches
Rochester gets on average four more inches of snow than its New York neighbour. Also located fairly close to Canada, south of Lake Ontario, Rochester deals with large amounts of lake-effect snow that occasionally leads to blizzards. Rochester was part of the Great Blizzard of 1977, which took place between January 29th and February 1st.
Sustained winds that exceeded 60 mph battered the regions, blowing snow from the lake, adding to the already-heavy snowfall. Dozens of people passed away in the ensuing days. Snow drifts of up to 30 feet accumulated in some areas, and it took the city almost two weeks to remove all the snow and recover from the disaster.
8. Akita, Japan – 107 inches
Home of Akita Castle, a fortification built around 733 A.D., Akita has a population of more than 320,000 residents. It achieved the designation of a “core city” of Japan in 1997, earning the ability for greater administrative autonomy from prefectural and federal governments.
The first two months of the year tend to dump the most snow on the people of Akita, with an average of 54.3 inches in January and 42.5 inches in February – over 90% of its average annual snowfall. Located close to subtropical climes that introduce a lot of moisture to the region, Akita tends to experience plenty of rain as well, with more than 66% of their calendar filled with either rain or snow.
7. Saguenay, Canada – 123 inches
Saguenay is located about 120 miles north of Quebec City, capital of the province of Quebec. Formed through a merger of four smaller cities – La Baie, Laterriere, Chicoutimi and Jonquiere – Saguenay has a population of more than 144,000 Francophones living close to the Saguenay River and Lac Saint-Jean.
Due to its geographic vicinity, adjacent to the lake and river and slightly lower than the surrounding area, Saguenay became one of the few regions considered habitable in northern Quebec, because of its relatively mild temperatures. In fact, no major populations exist close to Saguenay, with no major roads heading north.
6. Syracuse, United States – 124 inches
Syracuse University is in the snowiest city in the United States and has the second snowiest college in the country, behind only Michigan Technological University, which is close to the small town of Portage Lake. Similar to the other snowiest cities in the United States, Syracuse is located in the state of New York, situated close to a lake – in this case both Lake Ontario and Onondaga Lake.
Metropolitan Syracuse has a population of more than 144,000 in the city with more than 662,000 people living in the surrounding metropolitan region. Syracuse serves as a significant financial destination for the central New York area and provides renowned post-secondary education.
5. Quebec City, Canada – 124 inches
The second biggest city in the province of Quebec, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and features some of the most beautiful architecture and culture inspired by the city’s French and European roots.
In addition to old buildings, museums and other cultural institutions, Quebec celebrates the winter with the annual Quebec Winter Carnival. This year marks the carnival’s 60th anniversary. Quebec City is also known for its fantastic French Canadian cuisine, which blends French cuisine with hearty carb-laden foods that keep residents warm during the winter.
4. St. John’s, Canada – 131 inches
St. John’s is located in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and receives the most snow on average than any major Canadian city. This city is believed to be the oldest in North America and sprung from some of the first wave of settlements from European interlopers.
The Vikings were the first to cross the Atlantic ocean to visit the province, more than 400 years before the first European settlers. Considering that this city averages more than 10 feet of snow every year, the Vikings, lead by Leif Erikson, likely considered the conditions too barbarous to bother with permanent colonization.
3. Toyama, Japan – 143 inches
This area of Japan receives so much snow on an annual basis that that the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route – Yuki no Otani – features giant walls of snow on both sides that tower over all drivers, completely blocking the view.
Toyama is the capital of the Toyay Prefecture and is home to over 417,000 residents. Just like Akita – another snowy Japanese city – Toyama has relatively mild weather and enough humidity to create an impressive amount of snow. Toyama’s situated next to Toyama Bay, which leads to the Sea of Japan, resulting in intense snowfalls in a way similar to lake-effect snow.
2. Sapporo, Japan – 191 inches
Sapporo is the largest city on this list, with a population of nearly 2 million. The fourth biggest city in Japan is the second snowiest on earth, with nearly 17 feet of snow per year on average. Similar to Quebec City, Sapporo puts on an annual festival, known as the Sapporo Snow Festival, welcoming about two million tourists during the event.
The festival offers visitors entertainment, food and other winter-based cultural events. Sapporo was the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics and is also the home of Sapporo Brewery, which exports various brews around the world. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, Sapporo draws more than 10,000,000 visitors every year.
1. Aomori City, Japan – 312 inches
By far the snowiest city on earth is Aomori City in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. This location averages a whopping 26 feet of snow per year, more than a 100 inches more than Sapporo, the next snowiest city. The reason Aomori City receives an incredible amount of snow is its location in high elevation among the Hakkoda Mountains, Aomori Bay and Mutsu Bay, combining cold northern air with snow production aided by adjacent bodies of water.
The wind that blows from around the city swirls the precipitation into dense clouds that result in an unusual amount of snow, thick fog and the occasional cool summer. The wind also causes snow to settle into strange formations, known as ‘snow monsters’, as pictured above.