The temperature in Central Park hit 87°F on the equinox. Then on Sunday, it soared to 91°F, setting a new record high for the date. The previous record of 89°F had been in place since 1959.
At this point in September, temperatures usually peak in the lower 70s. But with a stubborn ridge of high pressure sitting over the region, warm equatorial air is flowing further north than it normally would at this time of year.
If you are ready for autumn, fear not. Temperatures that are more seasonable are expected to return to the city later this week.
Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere. The new season officially begins at 20:02 UTC, which is 4:02 PM Eastern Daylight Time.
The astronomical seasons, as opposed to the meteorological seasons, are a product of Earth’s axial tilt – a 23.5° angle – and the movement of the planet around the sun. During the autumn months, the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun. This position distributes the sun’s energy equally between the northern and southern hemispheres.
Since the summer solstice in June, the arc of the sun’s apparent daily passage across the sky has been moving southward and daylight hours have been decreasing. Today, the sun appears directly overhead at the equator and we have approximately equal hours of day and night. The word “equinox” is derived from Latin and means “equal night”.
With the sun sitting lower in the sky and daylight hours continuing to shorten, autumn is a season of falling temperatures. According to NOAA, the average high temperature in most US cities drops about 10°F between September and October.
Earth’s solstices and equinoxes. Image Credit: NASA
Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with November 2016 marking not only the fifth warmest November on record but also closing out the second warmest meteorological autumn ever recorded for the entire planet.
According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for November – over both land and sea surfaces – was 56.51°F. That is 1.31°F above the 20th-century average and only 0.41°F shy of the record that was set last year.
The three-month period of September, October, and November – known as the meteorological autumn in the northern hemisphere – was also one for the record books. With the season posting an average temperature that was 1.39°F above the 20th century average, it was the Earth’s second warmest September to November period on record.
While heat dominated most of the planet these past three months, some places were particularly warm. Here in the contiguous US, the autumn of 2016 was our warmest on record. Nearly every state experienced above average temperatures and eight were record warm – Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin.
These soaring temperatures are attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. Whereas El Niño gave global temperatures a boost earlier in the year, it dissipated in June. In fact, its cooler counterpart, La Niña, prevailed across the tropical Pacific Ocean this November.
Year to date, the first eleven months of 2016 were the warmest of any year on record. It is now almost certain that 2016 will surpass 2015 as the Earth’s warmest year ever recorded. Global temperature records date back to 1880.
November felt like a weather roller coaster in New York City this year. We had highs that ranged from a relatively balmy 72°F to a chilly 41°F. However, with 19 out of 30 days posting above average readings, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 49.8°F, which is 2.1°F above our long-term norm. This was the Big Apple’s 17th consecutive month with an above average temperature – its longest streak on record.
In terms of precipitation, November was unusually wet and marked the first month since July that NYC received above average rainfall. In all, we received 5.41 inches of rain which is 1.39 inches above normal. The majority of this plentiful total fell during two separate heavy rain events. In fact, November 29th was the city’s wettest day of the year and set a new daily rainfall record with 2.20 inches measured in Central Park. Nonetheless, despite these soakers, NYC remains in a moderate to severe drought according the latest report (12/1) from the US Drought Monitor.
November 2016 was NYC’s 17th consecutive month with an above average temperature. Credit: The Weather Gamut
November was the first month since July that NYC received above average rainfall. Credit: The Weather Gamut
Autumn, with its crisp temperatures, is a favorite season for many. But for others, the decreasing daylight hours can bring on a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a “subtype of depression that comes and goes with the seasons” and is most common in fall and winter. Its exact cause is not fully understood, but researchers say a reduction of sunlight can disrupt the production of serotonin and melatonin – chemicals in the brain that regulate mood and sleep patterns. SAD symptoms include low spirits, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and changes in both sleep and eating patterns.
SAD is typically found in places that are far from the equator where daylight is at a minimum in the winter months. A report by the American Academy of Family Physicians says about 6% of the US population suffers from some degree of SAD, with most cases occurring in Alaska.
The most common treatment for SAD is light therapy. This involves sitting in front of a special lamp that gives off light that is similar to natural sunshine. It has been shown to trigger the brain chemicals that regulate mood. The more serious cases of SAD could require advanced talk-therapy or even medication.
While everyone can feel a little “blue” once in awhile, SAD is characterized by a prolonged feeling of depression. It can be a serious condition and should be diagnosed by a medical professional.
The most common type of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs in fall and winter. Credit: hercampus
According to the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 49% of the nation is dealing with drought. While this number represents a slight improvement for parts of the west, both the southeast and northeast have been drying out.
Currently, 57% of the southeastern US is in some form of drought and 21% is suffering from conditions of extreme drought. These parched conditions, which have been building for months, are now fueling wildfires across the region. According to the US Forest Service, 59 of the 61 active large wildfires burning in this country are in the southeast.
Another hard hit area is the northeast, where 19% of the region is in severe or extreme drought. Water restrictions are in place in parts of Massachusetts and communities in New Jersey are asking residents to conserve water voluntarily.
On the other side of the country, California – now in its fifth year of drought – received some much-needed rainfall recently. However, most of it fell only in the northern counties. Overall, 88% of the Golden State remains in some form of drought with 21% in exceptional drought, the worst possible category.
The Drought Monitor is a weekly publication produced by a partnership of government agencies, including the National Drought Mitigation Center, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
October felt like a weather roller coaster in New York City this year. We had highs that ranged from a balmy 85°F to a chilly 51°F. But, in the end, the warmth won out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 58.8°F, which is 1.9°F above our long-term norm.
On the precipitation side of things, the city received near average rainfall for the first time in months. In all, we received 4.15 inches of rain in Central Park, which is only 0.25 inches below normal. Of this total, 1.41 inches fell during a single heavy rain event on October 27th – the city’s wettest day since last May. Despite this soaker, the Big Apple remains in a moderate to severe drought according to the latest report (released on 10/27) from the US Drought Monitor.
October was a temperature roller coaster in NYC. Credit: The Weather Gamut.
Rainfall was near average in NYC for the first time in months. Credit: The Weather Gamut
Autumn is well known as the time of year when leaves change color. However, have you ever noticed the sky also changes shades with the season?
In general, we see the sky as blue because of Rayleigh scattering. This is a phenomenon where the molecules of nitrogen and oxygen that make up most of Earth’s atmosphere scatter the incoming light radiation from the sun. More to the point, they are most effective at scattering light with short wavelengths, such as those on the blue end of the visual spectrum. This allows blue light to reach our eyes from all directions and dictates the color we understand the sky to be.
The arc height of the sun’s apparent daily passage across our sky, which varies with the seasons, determines how much of the atmosphere the incoming light must pass through. This, in turn, affects how much scattering takes place. Simply put, the more Rayleigh scattering, the bluer the sky appears.
That said, humidity levels also play a role. Water vapor and water droplets are significantly larger than nitrogen and oxygen molecules, and therefore scatter light differently. Instead of sending light in all directions, they project it forward. This is known as Mie scattering and tends to create a milky white or hazy appearance in the sky.
During the summer months, when the sun is higher in the sky, light does not have to travel that far through the atmosphere to reach our eyes. Consequently, there is less Rayleigh scattering. The warm temperatures of summer also mean the air can hold more moisture, increasing the effect of Mie scattering. As a result, the summer sky tends to be a relatively muted or pale blue.
In autumn, the sun sits lower on the horizon, increasing the amount of Rayleigh scattering. The season’s cooler temperatures also decrease the amount of moisture the air can hold, diminishing the degree of Mie scattering. Taken together, these two factors produce deep blue skies.
When this azure hue is contrasted with the reds and yellows of the season’s famous foliage, all of the colors look even more vibrant.
Yellow leaves pop against a deep blue autumn sky. Photo credit: Azure-Lorica Foundation
New York City, along with much of the northeastern US, is suffering from weather whiplash this week.
Last Wednesday, the temperature in Central Park soared to 85°F, setting a new record high for the date. This Wednesday, the mercury only made it to 51°F. That is a difference of 34°F! Our normal high for this time of year is 60°F.
Overnight lows in the city have also seen a dramatic decline. Dropping to 38°F early this morning, it was the coldest reading the Big Apple has seen since last April.
From shorts to sweater weather and back again, Indian summer is in full swing in New York City.
The temperature in Central Park soared to 81°F on both Monday and Tuesday this week. On Tuesday, it was just one degree shy of the daily record set back in 1928. We will get another shot at a record on Wednesday if the temperature climbs to 83°F. (The forecast high is 82°F.) Combining these unusually warm readings with dew points in the 60s, it has felt more like August than mid-October in the Big Apple. Our normal high for this time of year is 63°F.
This unseasonable warmth is the result of a dominant Bermuda High, a large area of high pressure situated over the southeastern part of the country. Spinning clockwise, it has been steering warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico toward the northeast.
As pleasant as these summer-like temperatures are, they will not last much longer. Conditions that are more seasonable are expected to return by the end of the week.
How a Bermuda High ushers in hot and humid air to the northeastern US. Credit: Jacksonsweather