Bypassing autumn?

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Do you know where your cozy gloves are? It’s mid-October and time to dig out the cooler-weather accessories. Somehow, we are going from sweat weather to sweater weather in just a matter of days. What happened to having a whole season of transitional weather?

It’s been kind of a strange year. Our winter temperatures set records for cold. Our spring settled in later than usual. Our summer had bouts of extended rainy periods and extended dry periods, and there seemed to be no middle ground. We saw the effects of two strong hurricanes within a few weeks of each other, and now we seem to be bypassing autumn, or at least experiencing an incredibly brief version of it. As one of my friends asked me on Facebook this morning, “When did fall and spring become a one-week season around here?”

The question made me think about what our average autumn looks like.

If we consider today’s 30-year averages – what meteorologists consider “normal” – our normal high temperature at Raleigh-Durham International Airport is 73° F, and our normal low is 50° F. Our forecast high for today is in the upper 70s and our low this morning was 58° F. So, today, we are running warmer than normal.

This week will be a transitional one as a cold front comes through and brings the dewpoints and air temperature way down by Thursday morning when our low could hit the lower 40s. By Monday, we could be seeing lower 30s for the morning low temperature. Yet, Monday’s forecast low is happening about the time we might expect it. According to the interactive map on plantmaps.com, the average first frost dates for Wake Forest are in the range of October 21 through October 31. Monday is October 22.

first frost dates

Plantmaps.com‘s average first frost map for NC shows October 21-31 being our date range for Wake Forest and the surrounding countryside.

According to the North Carolina Climate Office, September was our third-warmest on record. “We haven’t seen a September that warm in almost a century; our only two warmer Septembers were in 1921 and 1925!” Our warm summer extended into early fall, and by many accounts, overstayed its welcome.

The first weeks of October were also warmer than normal. As I said, this week will provide our transitional period, and then, according to the long-range models and the Climate Prediction Center, next week we head into colder-than-normal territory. Those unusually cool temperatures could last well into November.

The CPC is forecasting our winter months of November through January to have equal chances of being average, above average, or below average regarding temperatures. Their seasonal predictions are based on global-scale circulations like the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, and there are many flavors of weather possible based on those patterns alone. So, only time will tell if we really are bypassing autumn completely, or if autumn will try to force its way into early winter.

monthly averages

Chart from usclimatedata.com showing RDU’s average high and low temperatures as well as average precipitation per month.