Norfolk’s weather for 2021 was interesting. Isn’t the weather always interesting? What rightly first comes to mind when remembering 2021’s weather is how wet it was during the summer and fall. What also might come to mind is the relative lack of snowfall. Digging deeper, Norfolk residents might remember how lousy the weather was for some of our holidays. Weather for Memorial Day and Independence Day was cool and wet and not very summer-like. Labor Day was not that nice either, but at least it was not as gloomy as the others. Thanks to an overnight light coating of snow, Norfolk did just barely squeak out a white Christmas, but the snow was gone very soon after. To finish out the year, between Christmas and New Year’s, we saw several dreary days with fog, drizzle, rain and freezing rain.
Temperatures were above normal for most of 2021. Ten of twelve months came in as warmer than normal. Three months (August, October and December) were ranked in the top ten for warmth. There were eight days during the year that set new record daily high temperatures. There was one day that set a new record daily low temperature. The coldest day of the year was on January 29 with a low temperature of minus 2 degrees. That was the only day of 2021 with a below zero temperature. The warmest day of the year was on June 29 with a high of 91 degrees. Norfolk hit 90 degrees or above just two times during the year. It was 91 on June 29 and 90 on June 30. This is about average for Norfolk. It was quite cloudy and rainy for a good part of July through October, likely keeping temperatures lower than they might have been had there been a little more sunshine. With an average yearly mean temperature of 47.3 degrees, the year ended up being Norfolk’s 8th warmest over the last 90 years. The warmest year was in 2012 with 48.5 degrees and the coolest was in 1940 with 41.9 degrees.
Snowfall for the year was quite a bit below normal. The calendar year snowfall total of 59.1 inches ranked 2021 as Norfolk’s 10th least snowy year over the last 90 years. Seven of 2021’s eight “snow season months” were below normal for snowfall. Norfolk’s snowiest year was in 1956 with 175.1 inches and the least snowy was in 1998 with just 33.0 inches. The October 2020 – May 2021 winter season snowfall total was 77.6 inches. This was below normal, but not high ranking. Had it not been for February’s 35.0 inches, both the yearly and winter season snowfall totals would likely have been in the top three for least snowy. March, with just 0.1 inch of snowfall, was the least snowy March on record.
The yearly total precipitation amount of 60.00 inches was 7.47 inches above normal, ranking it as the 16th wettest year over the last 90 years. Seven months were above normal and five were below normal, but the months that were above were considerably above. The year started out dry and by the end of April the precipitation deficit was 5.63 inches. The deficit was 5.02 inches after June. Then came the rains. July with 13.05 inches was Norfolk’s wettest July on record. It was also the 8th wettest month of any month over the last 90 years. August through October were also above normal. At the close of October, the year’s surplus peaked at 11.24 inches. The weather then changed and November and December were below normal. We were flirting with top 10 for wettest year until the final two months of the year. Norfolk’s wettest year was in 2011 with 77.28 inches and the driest was in 1965 with 33.89 inches.
The final two months of the year bring us closer to wintertime. This year there were glimpses of wintertime weather in November and December, but for the most part, winter held off until after the ball dropped on the New Year. What was very notable was the change to less precipitation during the final two months of the year. Our string of much wetter than normal months from July through October was broken. November and December were both well below normal for snowfall and total precipitation. December was high ranking for warmth. Most local ponds started icing over in late November into mid-December, but the ice then went in and out several times and most ponds were not fully iced by the end of December. November, the potential predictor month for winter, was colder and drier than normal. Could that mean this winter will be cold and dry? Time will tell.
November’s average temperature of 36.6 degrees was 0.5 degree below normal. It was over five degrees colder than November 2020. Temperatures ranged from a high of 63 to a low of 15 degrees. The high of 63 degrees on November 18 tied the 1963 record high for that date. Total precipitation for the month totaled 2.37 inches, 2.21 inches below normal. It was Norfolk’s 11th driest November over the last 90 years. Norfolk’s driest November was in 2012 with just 0.84 inch. There was just 1.5 inches of snowfall for the month, 5.1 inches below normal. The first flakes of the season came on November 14 and the first measurable snowfall came on November 26.
December’s average temperature of 32.3 degrees was 6.5 degrees above normal, ranking it as Norfolk’s 7th warmest December. Temperatures in December ranged from a high of 60 to a low of 13 degrees. There were three days with record daily high temperatures: December 11 with 59 (was 56 in 1979), December 16 with 60 (was 55 in 1982) and December 17 with 52 (was 50 in 1984). Norfolk’s warmest December was in 2015 with an average temperature of 39.5 degrees. With a monthly total precipitation amount of 3.01 degrees, it was 1.56 inches below normal. December’s monthly snowfall total of 4.1 inches was 12.7 inches below normal. Unlike last year, Norfolk did have a white Christmas this year, although with just one inch on the ground in the morning it just barely made it, and the snow was gone by the next morning. This December ranked as Norfolk’s 7th least snowy December over the last 90 years. Norfolk’s least snowy December on record was in 1943 with a monthly snowfall total of just 0.6 inch.
October was another above normal month for both temperature and precipitation. The fall foliage season this year, for the most part, was not all that fantastic. There was some colorful foliage, especially early in the season in the swampy areas, but with many maples having issues with the wet weather, this year will likely go down as poor in the foliage record books. Hard to say if it was a late season for foliage color due to the maples, but it probably was a week or so behind normal because of the extended warmth. As usual, under the impatient and watchful eye of fall cleanup crews and leaf raking homeowners, the oak trees were still hanging onto their leaves at month’s end.
The month’s high temperature of 74 degrees was observed on October 15 and the low of 30 was observed on October 29. The monthly mean temperature of 52.5 degrees was 4.7 degrees above normal, ranking it as Norfolk’s seventh warmest October over the last 90 years. Norfolk’s warmest October was in 2001 with 55.3 degrees. The coldest was in 1974 with an average temperature of 42.0 degrees. There were a few days with light frost in the usual lower elevation valley locations. The first days with widespread frost were October 24 and 29, quite a bit later than usual. Over the last 90 years, there have been only five days in October with temperatures that reached 80 degrees or above. Those dates are: Oct 5, 1941 (83), Oct 5, 2007 (80), Oct 6, 2007 (80), Oct 10, 1939 (82), and Oct 12, 1938 (81).
The total precipitation for the month was 6.04 inches, 1.68 inches above normal. It was not all that high ranking, but it was Norfolk’s nineteenth wettest October over the last 90 years. It was the fourth month in a row with above normal precipitation. Norfolk’s wettest October occurred in 1955 with 17.49 inches (also second wettest of any month). The driest October was in 1963 with just 0.63 inch (also the third driest of any month). There was no snowfall this October, technically making it 0.9 inch below normal. October’s record for monthly snowfall was the super impressive 23.8 inches recorded in October 2011.
Through October, the total precipitation amount for the year was 54.62 inches. This was 11.24 inches above normal through October. At the end of the month, this year’s total already surpassed Norfolk’s average annual amount by 2.09 inches. To add to this, this year’s total was a little over 20 inches more than last year’s total through October. Time will tell, but the year of 2021 is on track to be top ten for both precipitation and temperature.
It has been stated that November, and even more specifically, the first half of November, can sometimes predict what type of winter we will have. November this year definitely brought a change from our string of months with above normal temperatures and above normal precipitation. The first half of November this year was cold and dry. The period November 1-12 was the longest stretch of days all year without precipitation. The first snow (barely measurable) of the season came on November 14 and 15. Interestingly, the date of oak leaf drop this year was just about normal, starting around Veteran’s Day and mostly all down by mid-month. The oaks were right on schedule.
September was yet another non-typical weather month for Norfolk. It did not feel that warm or wet all month, but the final monthly totals told a different story. In just a period of about three days, remnants of a Gulf Coast landing hurricane and then three weeks later a strong cold front combined to produce a vast majority of the month’s rainfall. Without these two relatively short duration rain making events, September would have come in as one of Norfolk’s driest Septembers on record. It was a poor foliage season for the area’s sugar maples, a casualty of our wet summer and fall, but there was fall coloring and it began to be quite noticeable by the middle of the month. By the end of the month, local swamps were all showing off their beautiful classic red glory. It is debatable, but some say the foliage change this fall was a little later than usual.
September’s high temperature of 81 degrees was observed on September 15 and the low of 43 degrees was observed on September 29. The month’s average mean temperature was 61.5 degrees, 2.5 degrees above normal. This month was tied with 1946 and 1971 as Norfolk’s 11th warmest September. Norfolk’s warmest September was in 2015 with a mean temperature of 64.7 degrees. The coolest was in 1963 with 53.6 degrees. There were no daily temperature records set this month and there was no frost anywhere to be found in Connecticut. Last year the first frost came to some Norfolk locations by September 15, with the first widespread frost occurring on September 21. It is fairly normal for some parts of Norfolk to see a few frosts in September. This September was just too warm for that. It did extend the growing season though.
The month’s rainfall total was 8.80 inches, 4.13 inches above normal. Nearly 90% of September’s monthly rainfall came from two relatively short duration rain events. That seems wild, but it actually is not all that uncommon. This September came in as Norfolk’s 9th wettest September. Norfolk’s wettest September was in 1938 with 13.40 inches and the driest was in 2014 with just 1.16 inches.
Through September this year, the total yearly precipitation amount was 48.58 inches. This was 9.56 inches above normal through the third quarter of 2021. A very interesting fact is that after September of 2020 Norfolk’s precipitation total was just 29.18 inches. That was 9.96 inches below normal and 19.40 inches less than this year’s running total. Talk about a complete switch from one year to another. The year of 2020 ended up being Norfolk’s 18th driest year on record. With still three months to go in 2021, if our above average monthly precipitation continues to occur, Norfolk could be flirting with a Top Ten wet year.
In a preview of October’s weather, through October 21, it was much warmer than normal. It is very likely that this October will rank very high for warm Octobers. There were a few reports of very light frost in some lower elevation valley locations on October 7 and 19, but still no widespread frost and just a few days with that typical October chill in the air. Rainfall was about normal with most of the month’s current total of 2.71 inches coming during a rain event on October 3-5. Norfolk’s foliage season “number one” (maple and ash) was about over by October 21, with foliage season “number two” (oak and beech) yet to come. The peak day for foliage this year was hard to pinpoint. The forecast is for weather patterns to change during the final week of the month. Winter is (slowly) approaching.