The start of winter was a real record breaker. December was the warmest on record in the New York metropolitan region. According to the National Weather Service, it was the first December ever where the temperature never fell below 32 degrees in the city. November was also the warmest on record. That's the first time ever consecutive months have broken heat records, said the weather service.
January is something different. Old Man Winter finally arrived to New York Harbor during the first week of January.
Low temperatures for many places around the harbor this morning were in the teens. The official low temperature in Central Park was 11 degrees at 6:00 am. Where I live near Sandy Hook Bay, downstream from New York City, my backyard thermometer was reading a relatively balmy 17 degrees at 7:00 am. Gusts of icy winds were also blowing out of the north, gusting over 20 mph. It didn’t get much better later in the day. Sunny skies only had enough strength to rise to the upper 20s. This was the real deal, the first big chill of the winter season.
Though really this was nothing unusual. Just winter. January is normally the coldest month of the year. Cold strives to dominate the scene now. Darkness and freezing temperatures takes it toll and winter blues sets in.
But all is not lost. January can also be a time to live in defiance of wind and weather. Because cold air cannot hold as much water vapor as warm air during the summer, the atmosphere on cold nights can be clear and crisp. Stars and planets are often bright, twinkly, and seem close at hand.
Winter also provides an excellent opportunity for a person to become acquainted with our feathered friends. Local populations of Great Horned Owls are starting to establish nesting territories. Listen for their haunting hooting calls at night as courtship activity gets underway. Great Horned Owls are one of the earliest birds to breed.
During the daytime, listen for the hairy woodpecker’s territorial drumming in the woods or for chickadees and tufted titmice flying in a tizzy to local birdfeeders to feed on seeds and stay warm. At the water’s edge you might see a diversity of colorful birds with fanciful names: wigeons, coots, loons, eiders, buffleheads, mergansers, scouters, and goldeneyes. These waterfowl can only be seen during the winter.
If the cold still has you down and depressed, no worries! Days are growing longer now, with an additional fifty minutes of daylight by the end of the month. The January thaw is also a popular feature where temperatures on average tend to show an upward trend by the end of the month.
Of course, all you have to do is look at the local weather forecast to feel a bit friendlier. The cold snap will be short-lived. High temperatures are predicted to be in the low 50s this weekend. Not too shabby, since the average high for New York City in January is 36 degrees. Enjoy!