Seventh Warmest October on Record

By Russell Russ

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.