November was a rather sunny month. We had only four days without sunshine. It was also one of the driest we have had during our records of 44 years at Salem. Our total rainfall was only 1.98 inches.

Our most significant rain event occurred on the 12th through the 15th and gave us 0.8 inches and included a thunderstorm with damaging winds that gusted to 48 mph at Salem.

There were three other rain shower events that gave us an additional 1.12 inches. At night on the 26th we had a few trace flakes of snow, the first of the current season.

Temperatures were slightly below normal for the month. Our high was 68 degrees on the 18th and the low 23 on the 30th.

November seemed to quickly pass by this year and now December is here. The official start of winter begins on Dec. 21 at 10:59 a.m., the Winter Solstice. On that day we have the shortest period of daylight and the longest night. The sun is far to the south of the Equator and nights are long and cold.

Early in the month we can expect our normal daytime high temperatures to climb into the middle 40s, while pre-sunrise readings drop into the 20s. By Christmas time the highs reach mid to upper 30s and then dip down to the chilling low 20s by dawn.

Of course, since this is New England, we have had extreme contrasts. On Christmas Day in 1980, we recorded a truly impressive 10 degrees below zero. The very next day our December record low of 11 below zero was recorded here at Salem. On the other hand, we recorded a summery high reading of 78 degrees in 1998!

Optimistically, when the December weather is clear and sunny and our region is dominated by the crisp air from the north country, we have the bluest skies and the most exceptional visibility of the entire year.

This is especially spectacular after the passage of a fast moving snowstorm since the ground and trees are covered with a brilliant white blanket of snow.

This is a joyous holiday season. We can be made more content by a warm fireplace with a cozy hearth visiting friends and relatives. The wondrous excitement of the holiday season often helps us though those sometimes dreary days.

When we think about December, snow comes to mind. Winter sports enthusiasts welcome it. A sparkling light dusting is always welcome during the holidays since it makes everything look so bright and clean for a change.

December snowfall is usually 10 inches. However, our records of the past 44 years reveal that we had the greatest amount with an impressive total of 33 inches in 2003.

Most of the snow resulted from an intense long three-day nor’easter that blanketed us with just over two feet of wind driven heavy snow that was swept into massive drifts by the near hurricane force winds.

In contrast, we have had three Decembers with no measurable snow.

December has only just begun and since New England weather is full of surprises, we can just sit back and await the changes that are bound to take place while enjoying the holiday season.

Arthur A. Francis is a Salem meteorologist.

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