Drought Conditions Intensify

By Russell Russ

It’s all about the numbers. As we get closer to year’s end all eyes will be on the year’s weather statistics. The year of 2016 has a very good chance of ranking very high in two weather categories. Unless weather patterns change drastically before the end of the year, this year could come in as one of Norfolk’s top three driest and least snowy years on record (since 1932). Norfolk’s driest year was 1965 with 33.89 inches of precipitation. Norfolk’s least snowy year was 1998 with 33.0 inches of snowfall.

October was on the dry side, but all in all it was fairly typical weather-wise. Several warm days, several days with morning frost and even some snow towards the end of the month. The foliage season peaked around Columbus Day which is about normal. One could argue that the fall colors may have been adversely affected just a little due to the extended drought.

The month’s high temperature of 78 degrees was observed on October 18. This was a record high for that date, surpassing the previous record of 75 set back in 1933. The low temperature of 26 degrees was observed on October 26. The monthly mean temperature of 48.9 degrees was 1.2 degrees above normal. It was another warmer than normal month, like every other month so far this year, but it was not even in the top twenty for warmest Octobers.

The total precipitation for the month was 2.18 inches, 2.12 inches below normal. It was the fourteenth driest October in the last eighty-five years. Not overly record worthy for the month, but considering that nine out of ten months of the year so far have been below normal for precipitation, the deficit for the year is certainly becoming record worthy. The deficit is worsening every month and the effects on public water supplies and private wells have not been good.

There was a little sleet and snow flurry activity on October 22 and 25. The first measurable snow of the season came on October 27 when 2.5 inches fell in the Norfolk area. Towns just to the east saw a little more snowfall; a measurement of 3.2 inches came in from Colebrook. The snow only lasted for a day or so, but the snowy conditions and slick roads were quite a wakeup call to many people. Yes, believe it or not, winter is on its way. While 2.5 inches is not a huge amount of snow it is 1.6 inches above normal for October and was enough to make it tied with 2009 as our sixth snowiest October on record. The record for October by far was from 2011 when Norfolk received 23.8 inches of snow.

Through October, the total precipitation amount for the year was 30.39 inches. This is 13.16 inches below normal and even 4.68 inches below the amount through October of last year – and we thought last year was dry. This year’s deficit is one thing, the even more amazing fact is that since January 2015 the two year running deficit is now 24.38 inches. The snowfall total for the calendar year is now at 36.5 inches, 30.1 inches below normal.

Some say November’s weather foretells the coming winter’s weather. Hard to prove that, but what has been happening in recent years is that November, instead of October, has become the real fall to winter transition month. It is looking like that will be the case again this year.

This month’s photo was taken October 11 at 4:45 pm, it shows a beautiful circumzenithal arc in the sky over the GMF Forestry Office.