December was our introduction to the new winter season. We had a mid-month storm that produced heavy rain, accompanied by strong, damaging easterly winds. Over an inch and a half of rain was measured here at Salem. Along with the rain, we had 4 inches of snow. Snowfall for the month was a little above average, at 141/2 inches. This was just enough for the children to have some fun sledding, but a nightmare for drivers in commuter traffic.
Another heavy rain event occurred toward the month’s end and gave us an additional 1.32 inches. Overall, our monthly precipitation was considerably above average with a total of 5.47 inches.
Our temperatures were below average. Our high reading was 56 degrees on the 6th, while on the 17th the temperature plunged to 6 degrees above zero, accompanied by blustery northwest winds that gave us wind chills below zero.
Now winter is upon us with very short daylight hours. January is usually our coldest month of the year, and our daytime high temperatures should climb only into the mid-30s and drop into the mid-to-lower 20s (or upper teens) by dawn.
Checking back on our records for the past 34 years, we experienced our highest January temperature of 71 degrees in 2007. Our lowest reading was a frigid 15 degrees below zero in 1984.
Our average snowfall for January is about a foot. However, it can be a month with many significant snowstorms. One of the biggest single January snowstorms we have had was in 2005. The storm lasted two days and gave us almost 31/2 feet of snow. Winds gusted to 66 mph and caused serious drifting. Just during that month, snow occurred on 14 days and gave us an impressive final total of 60 inches.
Some other impressive January snowfall totals were: 34.5 inches in 1978 (precursor to the February Blizzard), 38.7 inches in 1994, 48.3 inches in 1996 and 42.2 inches in 2011. In contrast we’ve had some Januaries with less than an inch of snow.
Now, we are starting the month with a two-day snowstorm. The plows are ready. This is New England, we will wait and see what other weather events transpire.
Arthur A. Francis is a Salem meteorologist.
A LOOK AT SALEM WEATHER IN 2013 January: Although generally mild, we had our coldest temperature for the year: 1 degree above zero. It was dry with lots of sunshine. Total snowfall: only 5.3 inches. February: Cloudy, snowy and cold. Near blizzard on Feb. 8 and 9, with 25 inches of snow and drifts of 3 to 4 feet. Total snowfall: 33.7 inches. March: Cloudy and cold. Near blizzard on March 7 and 8 with 16 inches of snow. A storm on March 19 produced about a foot of snow with much drifting and was accompanied by a thunderstorm. Total snowfall: 28.2 inches. April: Sunny and mild with very little rain. May: Warm, sunny and dry. Temperature reached 95 degrees. June: Hot, with a high of 95 degrees. Lots of rain. We had 17 days with thunderstorms and 11 inches of rain for the month. July: Hot, with a high of 100 degrees, the highest reading for the year. There were nine days with temperatures in the 90s. There were seven days with thunderstorms. August: Cool, with no temperatures in the 90s. Dry and sunny. September: Cool, dry and very sunny. High temperature 98 degrees. October: Mild, sunny and very dry with less than an inch of rain. November: Cold and dry except for a Thanksgiving Day rainstorm. We had the first few flakes of our first snow. December: Cold with above average precipitation. Snowfall: 14.6 inches.