WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)

Thanksgiving 2018: Over the river and back to the Little Ice Age?

By Jesse Ferrell
1/24/2019, 3:32:27 PM

Tue, Nov 20, 2018, 5:04 PM

Did you know? "Over the River and Through the Wood(s)," a popular song about a snowy Thanksgiving trip, was written about the holiday in a Boston suburb in 1845, and that Thanksgiving 2018 could hearken back to those cold, snowy days?

Home to Thanksgiving

Home to Thanksgiving 1867 hand-colored lithograph on wove paper (John Schutler after George Henry Durrie). National Gallery of Art.

Weather records don't go back that far but climatologists agree that was within a period of unusual climatic hardship from approximately 1400 to 1900 called "The Little Ice Age," which featured temperatures well below the average worldwide.


It's likely that Boston and much of New England experienced heavy snow often in November in 1845, and even more likely when the author, Lydia Maria Child, was young (the song was a memory from her youth) in the early 1800s.

Boston snowfall records, which start in 1891, do say that a foot or more of snow has only fallen in November one year -- 1898. Beyond that, the data gets more spread out -- amounts over 8 inches also happened in 1897, 1940 and 1987. Smaller amounts, however, fell in groups between 1917 to 1945, and between 1967 and 2004.

Boston Snow 1891-2017

This Thanksgiving Day is forecast to have a high of 24 F with a low of 16 in Boston. That would tie the coldest Thanksgiving Day for the city, set in 1901. Boston is also experiencing its snowiest decade since the 1950s, and this year's cold won't be limited to Massachusetts.

New York City has also not had such a cold Thanksgiving Day since around that time.

New York City Thanksgiving Temperatures 1870-2018 (Corrected)

What does this mean for Global Warming? We don't have enough data to know, and you can't relate Climate Change to one particular weather event.

My opinions? If you look at the gray graphs above, you may ask where the warming is? I believe the warming is overestimated, and modern instrumentation has created a warm bias. Unusual cold and snow in the Northeast U.S. & Europe may be an unfortunate regional anomaly -- even if the entire globe is warming over the last 130 years (it has, but cut the hype with this graph of global temperatures). I'll say this: sooner or later we have to stop dipping back into Little Ice Age records if the earth is warming rapidly.

Dreaming of a White Christmas? Christmas snow lore was also concocted during the Little Ice Age. Please see my 2006 blog revisited in 2008 for additional information.

DISCLAIMER: My opinions here may not be those of my employers.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.

WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)