The cosmological calendar says winter begins with the solstice 6:03 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 21, the day of the new moon. But the climatological calendar says winter is here.
Autumn is going into the books with very different weather each month. September was record dry, October was record wet, November was record white. In Bangor, Maine, 25.9 inches of November snowfall beats 24.6 inches in 1962. If we add the three fall months together, we get near normal temperature and precipitation (except for all the November snow). But it happened in traditional New England fashion, a balance of the extremes.
There really is no such thing as "normal" weather. The weather behaves like a giant pendulum. From very warm and dry, to very cold and wet, and 100 other variations. And oh boy, did the pendulum swing hard across the nation in November. We broke records for most wide spread snow cover before Thanksgiving, the earliest closing of Mississippi River commerce due to ice, the snow near Buffalo and countless early "coldest on record" days.
As of Nov. 26, excluding the most recent arctic outbreak in the plains, we have tied or broken 4,115 low temperature records in the U.S. That means other parts of the world were breaking record highs. In New England, we had both record warm and record cold for the month, with the average temperature about one to two degrees below "normal."
Our Thanksgiving Eve snow storm was a disaster, especially in New Hampshire, where 200,000 customers lost electricity for Thanksgiving Day. The night after Thanksgiving had the first sub-zero readings of the new season.
So what's next? It appears more of the same December style, but this time, indications are the northeast and New England get some of the coldest air in the nation by the second week of December, while the west gets a break from the coldest weather (after this current outbreak). In California, the wettest week in months will result in flooding from Los Angles to San Fransisco, with feet of snow for the Sierra Nevada Range. This is a sign El Nino is finally kicking in. El Nino often begins just before Christmas and often means wet weather from coast to coast in the United States.
Add frigid air in Canada, the result can be some powerful east coast snow storms - as if we have not had our fair share already, the pace may increase this month.
This week looks very interesting, with rapid-fire warm-to-cold-to-warm-to-cold, with relatively small doses of snow, ice and rain. The strongest (Arctic Cold) High Pressure system in months or years crosses New England Tuesday. But with no blocking in the Atlantic, that high releases it's chill relatively fast, compared to its potential.
But the next high coming in Thursday runs into a building Atlantic block. A HUGE post-tropical season storm will develop in the tropics and be northeast of Bermuda next weekend. That will be the beginning of a new batch of potential big-ticket weather events upstream here in the northeast. We may have a slow-moving nor'easter next weekend, followed by record cold the following week.
In the next few days, winter wastes no time in getting started. You may have heard about the transition from 60-degree air in Montana last Friday cooling to lower than 10 degrees the next day. Our transition is not quite as dramatic. In northernmost New England, we are in the 30s early Monday, then close to 10 early Tuesday. In southern New England, we warm to near 60 before cooling late-day and overnight, with a few rain or snow showers.
We are cold and dry Tuesday before more substantial snow moves in Tuesday night. Very strong high pressure races east and out Wednesday generating powerful southerly winds, and rapidly warming temperatures for Wednesday afternoon.
Snowfall in the order of one to six inches south to north is here Tuesday night into early Wednesday. Then, sleet and rain will come in for a few hours before sunset. Just as quickly, rain (or freezing rain) changes back to snow before ending Wednesday night.
Another strong high comes in cold sunshine, high in the 20s and 30s Thursday night.
Overnight Thursday, we have zero-degree air in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for sunrise on Friday. Sunshine and clouds Friday afternoon should be very nice with lighter wind and moderating temperatures. That Thursday-to-Friday high pressure system will be slower to move out and MAY keep us dry through next weekend.
The crystal ball gets fuzzy at that point.
Major rain and snow in California this Tuesday and Wednesday will be making their was to the east coast next weekend, and there could be a nor'easter in the works. We will nail that forecast as the week goes on.