If December seemed cold, that’s because it was! Really cold, in fact. Crozet averaged almost 7 degrees below average and last month ranked as the sixth coldest out of 109 Decembers in our database. The coldest December ever was 1917 with an average of 27.4 degrees. This year we were just a touch below freezing with 31.9 degrees for an average.
Ironically, the month started warm with a high of 65 on the first and 2.01 inches of rain. We then went 29 straight days without hitting 50 degrees before bringing in the new year with a closing high of 59. Our pond froze on December 7 and never melted.
Rainfall was 2.61 inches with most coming on the first day. The ground was whitened with snow six days but the monthly snowfall total was only 3.9 inches, which is almost exactly normal for the month. Last year, of course, it snowed 22 inches on Dec 19.
We had a white Christmas for the second straight year but neither was impressive. This year was just a dusting and last year featured 8 inches of cold slop covered with pouring rain all day for Christmas.
Despite the bands on wooly worms or the height of bees’ nests or the number crunching of computer models, we can’t say much about the rest of the winter. Forecasting beyond two weeks remains mostly worthless despite considerable scientific effort. About all we can do is look at what has happened in the past.
January is historically the coldest month of the year. The sun reaches the low point on December 21, but the thermometer bottoms out on average a month later on January 21. Snow in Crozet is almost a random event. In 2009, the winter was very cold but almost no snow fell. Last year was cold again but a record 52 inches buried us.
Heidi Sonen and Roscoe Shaw are professional meteorologists who live and work in Crozet.