The Weather and Climate in Cleveland

Cleveland in winter
Cleveland in winter.


Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

There’s no way around it—winter in Cleveland can be brutal. The skies are overcast, temperatures are frigid (at least once every winter, the area known as America’s North Coast is good for a cold snap that cancels schools and leads to tips on the news to keep your pipes from freezing and bursting), and depending on where in the area you are, there’s lots of snow too.

But one of the perks of living in an area used to the cold is that people are used to dealing with the cold. Roads get salted and plowed, most businesses stay open unless there are extreme snowfalls or blizzard conditions and people generally go about their daily business.

And after the winter, there’s usually a relatively temperate spring, a warm (but usually not oppressively hot) summer, and a pleasant fall.

Fast Climate Facts:

  • Hottest month: August (average high 80 degrees)
  • Coldest month: January (average low 23 degrees)
  • Rainiest month: September (3.8 inches)
  • Snowiest month: January (18.7 inches)
  • Lake Erie: Coldest month: February (average water temperature 34 degrees); Warmest month: August (average water temperature 74 degrees)

Spring in Cleveland

Temperatures are most volatile in the spring. It’s not uncommon for it to be sunny and 70 one day and then near freezing the next. But after winter, people are usually delighted at anything that isn’t snow – although that occasionally happens in March and April. (In March, people will treat a 50 degree day as downright tropical.)

Everything and everyone starts to come alive in the spring, and people look for an excuse to be outside, from the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to opening day for baseball season to Dyngus Day on the Monday after Easter.

What to pack: A warm jacket, because even if it’s a warm day in the spring, it usually gets noticeably colder after the sun goes down – particularly if you’re near the lake.

Summer in Cleveland

It does get warm in the summer, which makes it the most opportune time to enjoy Lake Erie, either on one of the public beaches dotting the coastline or on a boat ride. But if you’re going out on, say, a fishing charter, dress warmer than you think you have to. It can get cold on the open water of the Great Lakes.

There are plenty of weekend festivals, from county fairs to the Feast of the Assumption (August) in Little Italy to a festival devoted to Duck Tape in nearby Avon. There are also outdoor bars and concert venues throughout the area, most prominently on the banks of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River.

And there are plenty of climate-controlled attractions, from the museums in University Circle to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if it gets too hot. Tickets are usually easy to come by if you want to watch the Indians, and almost as plentiful (and a little cheaper) for the minor-league or independent teams around the area. The Fourth of July is a big holiday, and depending when in the week it falls, there can be opportunities to see fireworks three or four days in a row in different but relatively close-by municipalities.

What to pack: Shorts, T-shirts, sandals or tennis shoes. And bug spray. Lots of bug spray.

Fall in Cleveland

The leaves on the trees change colors and for the most part, temperatures cool. Labor Day is seen as the unofficial end to summer, but it’s still not uncommon to see days with summer-type temperatures through September. But there’s nothing like a football game – be it high school on Friday, college on Saturday, or the Browns on Sunday – with a little bit of that fall bite in the air.

In a lot of ways, Ohio is a rural state, and even in a city like Cleveland, you’re usually not that far away from farmland and the growing field of what’s called agritourism, with inns and beds and breakfasts in the woods and opportunities for day trips like pumpkin and apple picking and walking through corn mazes.

What to pack: A little bit of everything. Layers are key, since a warm sunny day occasionally gives way to a cold night. You might still need the bug spray, too, as the midges swarm. They don’t bite, but they are annoying.

Winter in Cleveland

It’s not uncommon to see snow anytime between the end of October (the Indians famously had a World Series game snowed out in 1997) and April (they’ve had Opening Day snowed out too), but it really starts in earnest in December. The city averages about 68 inches of snow annually, but depending where you live, the total may not be that bad. Because of its geography, Cleveland gets lake effect snow, where cold fronts cross Lake Erie, picking up moisture and then dropping it in the form of snow on the east side and suburbs. In fact, it’s entirely possible to live on the west side and get a dusting, while school districts on the east side are canceling classes because of several inches of accumulation.

December is festive, with Christmas upcoming and an abundance of light displays and other outdoor activities like tree lightings and ice skating rinks, but January and February can be a chore. The city’s annually regarded as one of the cloudiest in the country, and the combination of gray skies, cold temperatures and precipitation can put a damper on anyone’s cheerful disposition.

What to pack: Anything warm – sweaters, sweatshirts, stocking caps, boots, hunting socks. And maybe some Vitamin D.

Average Monthly Temperature, Rainfall, and Daylight Hours
Month Avg. Temp. Rainfall Daylight Hours
January 34 F 2.7 inches 10 hours
February 38 F 2.3 inches 11 hours
March 47 F 2.9 inches 12 hours
April 59 F 3.5 inches 13 hours
May 70 F 3.7 inches 14 hours
June 79 F 3.4 inches 15 hours
July 83 F 3.5 inches 15 hours
August 81 F 3.5 inches 14 hours
September 74 F 3.8 inches 13 hours
October 62 F 3.1 inches 11 hours
November 51 F 3.6 inches 10 hours
December 38 F 3.1 inches 9 hours