Opinion

Totally different December! 

As you can tell by now, I sure do like my climate stats, and in my travels, I’ve found that others like them too! So let me give you two to start things off.

The first three weeks of this month were much colder than the first three weeks of December last year. Using the energy usage index, Heating Degree Days, we have had about 50 percent more of them from December 1st through the 21st this year, as compared to the same period last year.  This means that folks probably used about 50 percent more fuel during that three-week period this year.

Now stat number 2 pertains to snow, and for this we will use the entire snow season thus far. Last year, through December 21st, Caribou had received 13.6 inches of snow. This snow season, through December 21st, Caribou has received 44.5 inches of snow, which is almost 18 inches above normal.

Returning to the topic of cold weather in December, when considering the entire month, no December can rival the fiercely cold December of 1989, which had the second highest number of Heating Degree Days on record, 1,902. Records at Caribou go back to 1939. The highest number of HDD, and the only time on record a monthly total has exceeded 2000, was January of 1994, with 2,030!

Back to our current December, on the frigid morning of December 20th, when Presque Isle fell to -21, Caribou recorded a -17, which was colder by three degrees than their coldest temperature for all of last winter! (Thank you to NWS Caribou for that stat). That is truly a “take-notice” climate tidbit!

Now let’s turn our attention to these early sunsets, where mid- and late-December days feature the earliest sunsets of the year, the earliest being at 3:43 p.m. But now that we’re past the Winter Solstice, daylight is slowly increasing, and all of a sudden you will actually notice it getting dark just a bit later. By the end of next month, the sun sets in Caribou at 4:33 p.m., then, by the final day of February, the 29th (leap day!), it sets at 5:17.  On March 12th, the day we “Spring Forward” into Daylight Saving Time), it sets at 6:34. That’s a sunset more than two and a half hours later than it sets right now, and it’s only two and a half months away!

Some cheer for those who like more daylight in their days.

Happy New Year, see you in 2017!

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.

 

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