November & December Weather & a Yearly Summary for 2020

By Russell Russ

The final two months of 2020 began our journey into winter. November, being warmer than normal with below average precipitation and snowfall, might possibly indicate that we are in for a warm winter with below normal snowfall amounts. December’s conditions were fairly normal for December. There was some snow, it was relatively cold and most small ponds were iced-over and the larger ponds and lakes were getting close to being iced. But, normal was not the norm for most other months during the 2020 calendar year.

November’s average temperature of 41.7 degrees was 4.7 degrees above normal. It was the 6th warmest November on record. Temperatures ranged from a high of 71 to a low of 16 degrees. New daily high temperature records were set on November 8, 9 and 10 and there were near-record setting temperatures on November 6, 7, 11 and 30. These warm days obviously helped with the month’s high ranking for warmth. Precipitation for the month totaled 3.69 inches, 0.90 inch below normal. The monthly snowfall total of 1.1 inches was 5.5 inches below normal. The warmest November on record was in 2006 with a monthly average temperature of 43.2 degrees. After November, with one month to go until year’s end, 2020 at that time was ranked as being the 2nd driest year and 2nd least snowy year.

December’s average temperature of 29.5 degrees was 3.8 degrees above normal, ranking it as Norfolk’s 13th warmest December on record. Temperatures in December ranged from a high of 58 to a low of 6 degrees. The 58 recorded on December 25 (Christmas) tied the 2015 daily record high for that date. With a monthly total precipitation amount of 7.15 inches, it was 2.61 inches above normal. It was Norfolk’s 7th wettest December on record and was by far the wettest month of 2020. The year’s largest storm rainfall total came on December 24-25 when 2.60 inches was recorded. On the morning of December 24 there was 7 inches of snow on the ground, the next morning there was none. Norfolk did not have a white Christmas. December’s monthly snowfall total of 18.4 inches was 1.6 inches above normal. Of the month’s thirty-one days, there were fifteen days when some form of wintry precipitation was observed. During the month, it was cold enough and there was frequent wintery precipitation, but there was just one snowstorm. Norfolk’s largest snowstorm of 2020 occurred December 16-17 when a total of 13.7 inches was recorded. Norfolk warmest December was in 2015 with 39.5 degrees, the wettest was in 1948 with 12.78 inches.

It was an interesting year weather-wise, with arguably four main weather themes that one could say highlighted the year. One was the lack of snowfall during the January through March winter months. After just three months into the year, Norfolk was already nearly three feet below normal for snowfall. Monthly snowfall for the remaining months of the year was more normal, but the damage was done early. The yearly snowfall amount of 55.2 inches was 34.3 inches below normal, ranking 2020 as the 7th least snowy year on record.

The drought conditions experienced for much of the year was another story making headlines. Through June, Norfolk was nearly eight inches below normal for precipitation and much of Connecticut was under some form of drought condition. Conditions improved after August, but a sizable deficit continued through the end of the year, peaking after November at 10.12 inches. One positive that occurred in 2020, likely due to our deficit and fall weather conditions, was that the fall foliage coloring this year was one of the best in recent memory. With a total precipitation amount of 45.11 inches, 7.51 inches below normal, the year ended up being the 18th driest on record.

The warm temperatures recorded throughout the year were also noteworthy. Ten of the year’s twelve months were above normal for temperature and seven ranked in the top 10 for warmest. July was the warmest month of any month on record for Norfolk. The year’s average temperature of 48.0 degrees was 3.1 degrees above normal, ranking it as Norfolk’s 4th warmest year over the last 89 years. The average yearly temperature for Norfolk is 44.9 degrees. The year of 2012 with 48.5 was Norfolk’s warmest year, 1940 with 41.9 was the coldest. Overall, 2020 was a warm year with many warm days, but there were just two days that hit 90 or above for highs. This is average for Norfolk. There were just seven days with single digit low temperatures, just one day with a low of zero and no days with below zero temperatures. This is unusual for Norfolk.

The most notable storm event of 2020 was when Tropical Storm Isaias came through the Northeast on August 4. Most of the heavy rainfall occurred to our west in New York and Pennsylvania, Norfolk only recorded 1.36 inches of rainfall, but there was widespread wind damage throughout Connecticut, most of which was in the western part of the state. Trees and wires were down in many locations and many people were without power for days. Just two days before Isaias hit town there was a small tornado that touched down in North Norfolk. It was a relatively small tornado, one of several that spawned from one small, but strong storm cell that traveled from the Sharon area into Massachusetts. This tornado event got an incredible amount of attention from Connecticut’s TV meteorologists. Tornado warnings with radar maps being zoomed in over local Norfolk roads and landmarks does not happen too often. It was not a large event, but it did result in some tree, branch and powerline damage and even a small blowdown of multiple trees near the western shore of Wood Creek Pond. It was a very busy first week of August for Norfolk’s emergency responders.

The year of 2021 will be the 90th year of continuous daily weather observing at the Norfolk 2SW weather station. Everyone hopes that 2021 will be a much better year than 2020. Let us hope it will also be better when it comes to the weather. Weather observations and record keeping are performed by Russell Russ for the Great Mountain Forest at Norfolk’s National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer Station, Norfolk 2SW.