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Monday, December 2, 2013

Turning the Calendar to December

The start of the Winter season is less than three weeks away. The Winter Solstice occurs at 12:11 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Saturday, December 21, technically making it the “shortest” day of the year in terms of sunlight. Sunrise happens at 7:15, while the Sun sets at 4:26 on that day. Gradually, the length of daylight begins to increase by the last week of the month. As one would expect, the average temperatures in December start taking a nosedive based on 40 years of climatology.

The average high temperature drops from 46 degrees on the first of the month to just 37 degrees on New Year’s Eve. The average daily temperature falls from 39 degrees to 30 degrees over the next 31 days. The record high temperature for the month is 76 degrees, established on December 7, 1998. The coldest days ever for December happened on Christmas Day, December 25, 1980, and the next day, December 26, 1980, when an all-time low of -4 was recorded at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford. The mercury also fell to -1 on December 30, 1962.

I'm sure you haven't forgotten the post-Christmas blizzard three years ago, which "snowballed" into one of the most memorable Winters in recent memory. Heavy snow fell from Sunday, December 26, through Monday, December 27, kick-starting a nearly two-month stormy pattern which led to 60 inches of snow. Although that's double the norm, it fell short of the all-time snowiest Winter on record in southwestern Connecticut, when 78 inches fell during the 1995-96 season.

Officially, 12 inches of snow fell at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford from Sunday morning through early Monday morning, Dec. 26 & 27, 2010. The eight inches of snow which fell Sunday marked the third snowiest December day on record in southwestern Connecticut. Only December 19, 1948 (16 inches), and December 30, 2000 (10 inches) brought more snow in one day. Here are some impressive snow totals from that storm across southwestern Connecticut:
  • Wilton: 18"
  • New Canaan: 17.5"
  • Greenwich: 17"
  • Stratford: 16"
  • Norwalk: 16"
  • Westport: 14.8"
  • Darien: 14.5"
  • Milford: 14"
  • Bridgeport: 12"


You may recall that nearly five inches (4.8") of snow fell December 29 last year. One of the more memorable snowstorms in December occurred on Christmas Eve, 1966, when seven inches fell. You may remember that 3.5 inches of snow fell on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2008.

As far as precipitation is concerned, the average for the month is 3.47 inches. The wettest December on record happened in 1972 when 7.87 inches fell at the airport. Heavy rain plagued southwestern Connecticut  December 11 and 12, 2008, when 3.54 inches of rain fell over those two days, which is more than the average for the entire month. The driest December was in 1955 when only 0.33 inches filled the gauge. The average monthly snowfall is about 3.6 inches.

There is a "bright" side to the month. Although the time of sunrise gets later through the month, the Sun sets later and later, too. Today, for example, the Sun sets at 4:23 p.m. EST, which is the earliest Sunset of the year. It will set at that time through December 13. However, by New Year’s Eve, the Sun will fall below the horizon at 4:33. So, we’ll gain 10 minutes of daylight in the evening through the end of the month.

The Full Cold Moon, otherwise known as the Full Long Nights Moon, happens Tuesday, December 17, at 4:28 a.m. EST. It is sometimes called the “Moon before Yule.” The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and the Moon is above the horizon a long time. The midwinter Full Moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low Sun.

Happy December!