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Tonight Is When New York City Needs Batman Most

Batman’s Gotham City doesn’t exist, but as the setting for one of the most enduring characters in U.S. culture, it feels familiar — especially if you live in New York City. Within the DC Comics universe, New York and Gotham City are distinct locations,1 but Gotham is clearly inspired by New York.2 In fact, there’s a fantastic quote that has stuck with me3 about Gotham City from Dennis O’Neil, the editor of several Batman titles, including the legendary “The Dark Knight Returns” and “The Killing Joke” graphic novels.

O’Neil said “Batman’s Gotham City is Manhattan below Fourteenth street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November.” And by that metric, tonight is most often the night that New York is its most Gotham-esque: In seven of the past 50 years, Nov. 30 was the coldest night of the month.4 Here’s the breakdown by day:

hickey-datalab-batman-1

A little cleaner, here’s the cumulative probability that the coldest night in November has already occurred, or will be that night, based on the past 50 years of data:

hickey-datalab-batman-2

And while so far the coldest night of the month was the evening of Nov. 23, when the temperature hit 34 degrees, all I’m saying is that if you’re leaving an off-Broadway show tonight with your fabulously rich parents, maybe take an Uber rather than go down that alley.

Footnotes

  1. Technically, Batman is a citizen of the great state of New Jersey.

  2. And to a degree, the affection is mutual.

  3. I’m fairly certain the first time I encountered it was in this essay by Chris Sims about Gotham.

  4. I pulled the temperatures for midnight — or the first reading of the following day — at the JFK airport weather station from 1965 to 2014 to find when the coldest November night occurred. I would have liked to use the data from a Manhattan weather station, but the hourly Central Park data on Weather Underground was incomplete for large chunks of the 1990s.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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