December 2020: Not all that Cold, but Snow Still Flies!

January 8, 2021 // Article by: Cody Hewitt

December was not known for any extensive cold stretches, but this did not stop the snow from falling. Indeed, for areas north of the Mason-Dixon line, snowfall ended above average for the month, most of which came with a nor’easter in the middle of the month. Overall, this winter has started on a snowier note, which is a break from recent seasons.

The first week of the month witnessed slightly warmer than normal temperatures before diving closer to average, which coincided with the first storm on the 5th and 6th. While this fell as rain for many across the region, measurable snow came down across interior New England. Rain mixed with the snow along the coast, however, totals dramatically increased to near double digits west across Worcester County in Massachusetts. Even for areas that didn’t see much of any snow, upwards of 0.50-1.00” of rain fell. Any semblance of drought from fall was greatly suppressed through the month, thanks to multiple systems similar in character.

Just about a week later would be the storm that grabbed everyone’s attention. However, preceding that, mainly rain fell on the 14th with only minor accumulations of snow across the higher elevations away from the coast. High pressure then provided a brief bout of calm weather, only to be usurped by a complex storm that came together later on the 16th and lasted into the 17th. While not quite the “blockbuster” nor’easter (at least for the major cities of the Northeast), up to 6” of snow accumulated near the I-95 corridor with up to a foot to the north and west all the way from Harrisburg, PA through Boston, MA. Meanwhile, the heaviest band of snow clobbered upstate New York, north-central PA, and Vermont. In fact, areas around Binghamton, NY received 40 inches! At the height of the storm, snow came down at phenomenal rates of 5” per hour, shattering the record books.

Near blizzard conditions in Nazareth, PA on December 16th taken by meteorologist Mike Mihalik.

Afterwards, temperatures cooled down to 10 degrees below normal as high pressure settled in. This shimmied out by the 21st, changing things back to a “warmer” pattern. While this shift led to a mild Christmas, it was coupled with a storm that left 1.00 – 2.00” of rainfall across much of the Northeast, making for a wet Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Hartford, CT even broke a record, reaching 61 degrees. Following that, much colder air briefly swept in (along with some snow squalls in Virginia and Maryland) before things moderated heading into the New Year, preventing any additional big snows.

It was not an exceptionally cold month by any means, and December actually fell on the warm side by a degree or two. The multitude of disturbances helped keep overall precipitation above the norm, and snowfall for many was also above normal. New York, NY and Philadelphia, PA in particular saw double their average monthly accumulations.