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November was cold; December is warm?

It would appear that Mother Nature isn't ready just yet to get into the holiday spirit. After what was a remarkably chilly November, it seems that a flip of the calendar has turned the tables and brought back a little spring-like warmth. It may seem odd, especially with holiday lore everywhere telling you to hope for a white Christmas - but it's just not that odd to have a few warm-ups during December. 


Highs today will jump up above 70° and will likely do it again tomorrow. It'll be our first trip above that mark in 20 days. I went back over the last 5 Decembers to see if they had achieved these warm benchmarks, and found that it truly isn't that rare to do it - especially early in the month. Here are the numbers: 

Month70° DaysCompared to Ave.
Dec. 201110+4.1°
Dec. 20101-11.0°
Dec. 20093-1.2°
Dec. 200810+3.7°
Dec. 200710+4.5°

Notice that the years that saw much warmer than usual Decembers had the most 70° days. On the other hand, the colder Decembers had a tougher time getting warm as you would expect. But, even the historically cold December of 2010 got warm on the first day of the month before going into the ice box all the way through New Year's Eve. 

There are a few reasons why it's not that tough to get warm in December for us. For starters, at the beginning of the month our average temperatures are still relatively warm. During the first week of the month our "normals" are still ranging in the low 60's. It's not until the end of the month where they level off in the mid 50's where they'll stay for several weeks. At this point all you need is a good ridge in the Jet Stream to set up along the East Coast and you can see your temperatures bump up to those comfortable levels. 

Right now, that's exactly what we have. The Jet is far north in Canada and is providing a block to the cold winter air. It's up there as cold as ever, we're just not experiencing it right now -- it will be back. In the meantime, we have a high pressure area set up offshore not too different than a Bermuda High that we would expect in the summer. This pumps in the warm air from the southwest which will keep us warm until something like a cold front (arrives on Wednesday!) comes in to stop it. 

What IS particularly crazy about this time around is that folks in the middle of the country are getting in on the crazy Christmas warmth as well. Places like Chicago will get close to 70, and other areas in the Midwest will have low temperatures today that will exceed their average high temperatures. THAT is some significant warmth. Temps nearing 30° above normal there, which if you translate to our area would be like having a day today with highs in the 90's and lows in the 70's. 

Quickly looking back at November, it turned out to be quite a chilly one for us. Our average temperature finished a whopping 6 degrees below average which was good enough for the 2nd coolest November in the last 80 years. We only had 4 days above 70 degrees, and we had 13 days that stayed in either the 40's or the 50's.

Most of North Carolina was chilly, ranking with some of the coolest Novembers on record:

The weather is always full of surprises, and is hardly ever normal. Extremes are not unnatural, they're just part of the ups and downs we go through in the atmosphere. Right now we're swinging on the warm side, and you can bet the cool side of things will be back before you know it. 

Thanks for reading. Don't forget I post an unnatural amount of weather info on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I'd love it if you stop by and follow along and shoot me a few questions. 

- TB

By: Tim Buckley


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