Catskill Weather by Month - Purple Mountain Press



Courtesy of Purple Mountain Press and Dr. Jerome Thaler, author of Catskill Weather

Catskill Weather Trends


January warm, the Lord have mercy --Old English Proverb

ALONG WITH THE NEW YEAR, comes the full force of the winter season as daily temperatures continue to drop below those of December. The latest sunrise of the year comes at the end of the first week. Hand in hand with the dipping mercury, comes the mounting depth of the snow, crowding the regularly plowed main thoroughfares. While Catskill region snow lovers, usually ski vacationers, revel in the splendid whiteness, most natives are more concerned with the safety of their daily commute to and from work.

Away from the towns, the sounds of a January day seem muted, from the faint chirping of winter birds on a feeder, to the whining cars on a roadway at a distance, with an occasional chilling wind sighing through the bare woods. Against the pale skies, the land takes on a crisp outline that was hidden during foliage time. Now each tree is etched, displaying limbs stripped naked, clean and sharp against a frozen landscape.

In the Hudson Valley lowlands of Ulster and Greene Counties, snowfall and snow cover amounts are directly related to temperature. January daily high temperatures normally hover just below the freezing mark for nearly all of the month, except in urbanized areas such as New Paltz, Kingston, Catskill and Saugerties, where the normal January high of the day can be at the freezing point or slightly above. These towns, in a cold January, will retain all fallen snow, while a warm January will result in melting during most of the daylight hours. At Mohonk Lake, located neither in the Hudson Valley plain nor in the mountains, the normal coldest day of January is the twelfth, with a temperature range of 14 to 28F.

A winter pattern of above-freezing days and below-freezing nights such as occurs within the Hudson River valley, plays havoc with local paved roads. The alternate freezing and melting of water in hairline road crevices results in pavement breakup further aggravated by daily traffic.

There is a totally different January in the mountains and on the higher plateaus of the Catskills to the west with elevations over 1000 feet. There, the grip of the winter season is a steady one, and above-freezing temperatures are far less common, with little or no daytime melting. Average January temperatures are a good three to four degrees colder at elevations from one to two thousand feet and over seven degrees colder over two thousand feet. Observations at the East Jewett and Slide Mountain weather stations confirm these differences.

Snowfall is fairly uniform during January. Of the sixteen Catskill weather stations that have monitored snowfall from 1961 and 1990, twelve show a narrow average range of twelve to fifteen inches. Two exceptions are Walton and Slide Mountain with 21 inches. The higher elevation of the Slide Mountain location can easily account for its greater average total. The greater average at Walton remains unexplained. Perhaps a configuration of the local topography is the cause. The normal heaviest single January fall ranges between 4.5 and 6 inches. Heavy January snowfalls are relatively uncommon at the low and middle elevations (about 1500 feet) in the Catskill region. In the past 100 years preceding 1993, there have been only seventeen January snowfalls of ten inches or more at Mohonk Lake. Above 2000 feet, it's a different story; as Slide Mountain (2650 feet), has had twelve such snowfalls since 1977.

The snowiest January of the past 50 years was in 1987, when totals of over three feet were common throughout the five-county Catskill region. Amounts over 50 inches were measured at Delhi, Deposit, Manorkill, Windham, Slide Mountain, and Walton, with the latter station recording the greatest amount (56.7"). The negative effect of lower elevation on snow totals can readily be seen in the same month's totals at Rosendale, Mohonk Lake and Narrowsburg, where only 32, 36 and 35 inches were reported respectively.

The high variability of temperatures in our northeastern United States holds true in the Catskills. At Mohonk Lake a 21 degree difference separates the hottest January (34.8F) in 1932 from the coldest (13.6F) in 1918. Such winter variability can drive cold weather enthusiasts to despair. In the hot January of 1932, in the Hudson Valley climate division, Cairo and Rifton had twelve and eight days in which the temperature did not drop below freezing. Mohonk Lake, Roxbury and Jeffersonville, at higher elevations had respectively seven, six, and three non-freezing days. In sharp contrast, the cold 1918 January registered many days of below zero minimum temperatures. At Beerston there were 12 such days, at Roxbury 13, Jeffersonville 14, Mohonk Lake 8 and Athens 11.

Normally the coldest week of the year is the seven-day period of January 12-18 at Deposit (17.0F), Walton (18.7F), Downsville Dam (17.7F), Delhi (18.3F), Cobleskill (17.4F), and Slide Mountain (14.8F).

Based on long-term records at eight temperature recording stations, the coldest days of the year are normally January 12th, 16th, and 17th. Delhi and Slide Mountain show the coldest, with an average of 14F on January 16th.

"The January Thaw"

More often than not, the legendary "January Thaw'' comes in late January. This atypical period of relative warmth comes about a week after the coldest time of the year. In the warmer Hudson lowlands, the thaw is a period when minimum temperatures are above freezing and the sound of flowing water in local streams can again be heard. In the colder, higher regions, it can mean a few days of maximum temperatures well above freezing. The timing of this event is unexplained, but it clearly appears in the long-term daily averages. On January 22, at Mohonk Lake, the average temperature is 24 degrees. By the 24th, it rises to 26.5, then to 27.0 on the 25th, and to 26.5 on the 26th. Three days later, on the 29th it has fallen back to 23 degrees. Eight Catskill sites show the thaw lasting three or four days between the 23rd and 27th of the month. Although usually occurring during this 4th week of January, the exact dates, vary from year to year.

Another interesting aspect of Catskill January temperatures concerns the five hottest and five coldest Januarys at seven locations. Counting 1932/33 and 1949/50 each as one year, the spacing between these years reveals an approximate 18-20 year periodicity. The coldest January years are 1912, 1918, 1920, 1940, 1945, 1961, and 1981. An approximate 20 year period is also seen here for three of the five intervals. Does this mean a cold January at the beginning of the next millennium and a hot one ten years later? It does, if you believe in the rhythmic nature of our climate.

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In February days grow longer,
But winter's storms blow all the stronger
-Old English saying

WITH THE ARRIVAL of February, one can sense the slow but steady movement of the sun towards spring. Higher in the sky at noon, the sun now gives us about one full hour more daylight than one month earlier in the year. The extra hour, however is not enough to offset the cold of winter. The full moon of February was known as the ``Hunger Moon'' by the Native Americans, appropriate for a month that normally greets us with the second coldest week of the winter.

After the last three days of January, average daily temperatures at seven Catskill weather stations drop to the lowest for February from the fourth to the sixth. This cold period is close to, but not quite as cold, as the third week of January. From that time to mid July, average daily temperatures show a steady, welcome increase.

By mid-February, average daily temperatures have risen so rapidly, that they are higher than any day in January. Average monthly temperature for thirteen Catskill weather stations show February to be 1.8F warmer than January. However, one can barely notice the difference, as persistent cold and snow rule nearly all of the Catskill landscape.

Normal February temperature differences are small for locations with elevations between 1000 and 1500 feet, generally less than 2F as the range is from 21 to 23 degrees. Hudson Valley climate division stations and others that have elevations less than 1000 feet, show February means from 25 to 27 degrees. Locations over 2000 feet, such as the Slide Mountain Station, show mean temperatures less than 20.0F. Average temperature ranges during February range from 15 to 23 degrees at Slide Mountain to 21 to 30 degrees at Mohonk Lake. Six long-term sites have ranges in between these two.

Temperatures of zero and below are one measure of the severity of a winter month. In February, Slide Mountain, with the coldest average temperature, predictably, has the highest average number of days with zero or below temperatures. It shows seven such days compared to three at Mohonk Lake, the warmest of the Catskill weather stations that have maintained a 30-year record in common from 1961 to 1990. Of interest is a comparison of the twelve-year period in common between New Paltz and Mohonk Lake. Here we find the more urbanized New Paltz, in the Hudson Valley lowlands, showing an average of four zero or below days compared to two for Mohonk Lake. Atmospheric inversion is the cause of this difference as colder air on still nights will drop to the lower elevation of New Paltz. The same phenomenon is also evident in a twelve-year comparison of Freehold's coldest February days, with those of Mohonk Lake. The former shows over twice as many zero and below days. The above refers to what can be expected in a normal February. In 1934, during the coldest February of the century, Jeffersonville, in Sullivan County, recorded 20 days with lows of zero and below. Roxbury and Delhi had 17, Cairo 15, and Mohonk Lake 13. In February 1979, the number of days of zero and below at Deposit, Walton, Cobleskill and Liberty were respectively 14, 13, 12, and 11.

Knowing how often a particular extreme low or high temperature can occur in a specific location may often be useful in planning land use. The return frequency of Catskill hot and cold events is based on analysis of stations with continuous records for over 30 years. At Delhi, for example, 23 below zero in February can be expected once every 10 years and 31 below zero every 100 years.

One does not expect heat in February. In the Catskills, a few consecutive days of 24-hour temperatures above freezing constitutes a heat wave. In 1981, seven stations including the colder Slide Mountain Station recorded at least one full week above freezing. Both Cobleskill and Mohonk Lake had ten such consecutive days. Three years later, eight Catskill stations recorded five to eleven February days above freezing. Most of these eight stations had five consecutive days above freezing. At Deposit and Mohonk Lake there were eleven above-freezing days that month.

The dominant feature of February in the Catskills is snow. By mid-month, the season's accumulation has built up to its maximum in the mountainous regions where 40% of all years have more than one foot of snow on the ground. Generally the winter months' precipitation is the least of all the months of the year, but the snow that falls in February remains the longest. Because of its fewer days, February is slightly lower in average total snowfall than January, except at Mohonk Lake, where its near 100-year-old record of snowfall shows February (15.1") exceeding January (14.3"). As with temperature and precipitation, there is a wide range of snowfall from year to year. Before 1950, few Catskill stations provided long-term snow records. The greatest February totals in the more recent years was two to four feet for 1972, with the Slide Mountain station recording 52 inches. Another snowy February was 1978, with two to three feet measured in the western Catskills.

The heavy snow months of February 1972 and 1978, delivered the greatest snowfalls for individual storms. On February 19, 1972, Windham, Cobleskill, Mohonk Lake and Slide Mountain recorded 15", 16", 16.5" and 20." respectively. On February 7, 1978, eighteen Catskill-area snowfall-recording stations measured amounts ranging from 14 to 25 inches. Stations recording two feet and over included Narrowsburg, Frost Valley, Manorkill, and Prattsville.

February 1968 showed one of the least snowfalls, with most stations recording less than five inches and Rosendale reporting zero snowfall.

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March is a jade, a fickle thing
With the winter's wind and the sun of spring
The sun writes ``Come!'' and the wind says ``Go!''
The sun writes ``Rain!'' and the wind says ``Snow!''
The sun keeps writing, the wind erasing,
And March never knows which way she's facing.
-The Old Farmers Almanac

CLIMATOLOGICALLY, the month of March is considered to be a spring month, since it is not one of the three coldest months of the year. According to the calendar, spring arrives at the vernal equinox at the start of the fourth week of the month. In all parts of the Catskills however, subjective winter can easily be stretched to four months and to include all of March. As with the other cold months, temperatures of zero and below and measurable snow, have occurred on every day of Catskill March. At Mohonk Lake, the warmest of the long term Catskill weather stations, with over 100 years of daily records, below zero has been recorded as late as March 19th (-3F in 1967); single-digit above zero temperatures have been recorded through the end of the month.

The major difference between March and the other winter months is the amount of daylight. The seasonal equinox, (approximately March 21), brings equality of day and night for the first time since September. This fact has important climate consequences. For the first time since the end of November, the daily average temperature rises above the freezing mark. This event occurs between the 19th and 23rd at Liberty, Downsville Dam, Deposit, Cobleskill, Delhi, and Walton and should call for a ``Vernal Equinox'' celebration at those locations. At warmer Mohonk Lake, the event occurs on the 10th, while at colder Slide Mountain, below freezing daily averages hold on till the 29th. Other sites in the Hudson Valley, or at elevations greater than 2500 feet, can have earlier or later dates.

One should not be deluded by this hint of March warmth, since in all parts of the Catskills, normal daily minimum temperatures remain well below freezing. An examination of some of the coldest Marches of the past 100 years shows that they can match any other Catskill winter month.

In 1896, South Kortright in Delaware county recorded six days with minimum temperatures of zero and below.

In 1900, Windham set a mark of 20 below zero on the 18th. In 1912, Windham and Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) set lows of -14F and -12F on the 6th.

In 1916, perhaps the coldest March of the century, there were six days of minimums of zero and below at Jeffersonville. On the 18th of that month, low marks of -7F, -16F and -18F were recorded at Liberty, Beerston and Roxbury respectively. In 1926, low marks of -8F, -13F, and -15F were set on the 6th at Cairo, Roxbury and Delhi.

In the frigid March of 1960, Liberty had six days of minimums of zero and below; Roxbury and Delhi had nine; and Walton had fourteen such days.

Most recently, in 1984, Delhi recorded seven days of minimums of zero and below. Slide Mountain and Liberty had six such days.

True, spring-like weather can appear in March, with maximum daily temperatures in the 60s and 70s. Typically, this kind of warmth comes after the vernal equinox. Record setting hot days have been part of the warmest Marches of the past 100 years.

In 1898, South Kortright recorded 70F on the 20th.

In 1903, maximums in the low 70s were set at Walton and South Kortright on the 19th and 20th.

Liberty, Jeffersonville and Mohonk Lake set highs of 75, 79 and 80 degrees on the 29th in 1910.

In 1921, 78F marks were recorded at Jeffersonville, Mohonk Lake and Roxbury on the 27th.

The hottest March of the 20th century, arrived in 1945, when 80 degrees and higher were recorded from the 28th to the 30th at Mohonk Lake, Delhi, Jeffersonville and Roxbury, with 84F, as the hottest maximum at the latter two stations on the 29th.

The following year, another hot March, brought highs of 83, 80, and 81 degrees on the 29th at Middleburgh, Roxbury and Sharon Springs.

In 1977, 80 degree heat made a March finale appearance with maximum temperatures from 81 to 85 degrees on the last two days of the month at Downsville Dam, Walton, Liberty, Freehold and Deposit (the hottest). While rare, 80-degree maxima in March have occurred at eight of the ten long-term Catskill weather stations, however only in the last three days of the month.

March snows are common in the Catskills and average totals are between six and twelve inches for locations of elevations lower than 1500 feet. Snowfall totals greater than two feet are usually the result of one or two storms that leave ten or more inches of new snow, rather than small amounts over many days. Early Marches of the 20th century with amounts over two feet measured at Mohonk Lake and Roxbury show: 189633 inches, 191426 inches, 191636 inches, 192827 inches, 193244 inches, 194134 inches, 194233 inches, and 194728 inches.

After 1950, many additional stations in the Catskills began measuring snowfall, permitting many additional site comparisons. Especially noteworthy is the three to five feet total amounts the were measured in March 1993.

The March 7, 1967 area-wide snowstorm, with fourteen stations reporting, showed little variability, with a range of 10" (Delhi) to 16" (Mohonk Lake). Total snowfall amounts that month varied widely from Arkville (29") to Mohonk Lake (51"). For nearly all stations, this was the snowiest March.

The snowfall of March 4, 1971, with nine stations reporting, produced 11" (Claryville) to 14" (Manorkill). Another storm (nine stations reporting) on the 23rd in 1977, displayed snow effects principally in the high peak area with 11" at Prattsville and 27" at Manorkill. The most recent snowy March was 1984, when 40" fell at Slide Mountain and Mohonk Lake, 34" at Prattsville and Manorkill, and 27" at Liberty and Walton. The snowiest day of that month was the 30th, with amounts between 10 and 14 inches, the latter occurring at Windham.

One should not assume that all March precipitation comes as snow. The heaviest single-day amounts of one to two inches come as rain. Be it rain or snow, the greatest March precipitation, as expected, falls in the high peak region of Tannersville, Elka Park, and Slide Mountain, where five inches of precipitation is the norm. In the western Catskills between 2.5 and 3.5 inches is normal for March.

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THE LONG CLIMB out of calendar winter, not very noticeable in March, becomes distinctly evident in April. Normal daytime high temperatures are now in the 50s and 60s, and while at night the thermometer dips below freezing for the first half of the month in most of the Catskill region, there is now a definite sense of change. During April, the on-ground snow rapidly melts in the towns and villages. Most lakes have their ''ice out'' date by mid-month, much to the delight of fishermen. The snow melt of early April, can easily be heard in the myriad Catskill streams.

At Cobleskill, Downsville Dam, Liberty, Walton, and Deposit, 30-year averages show that above freezing minimum temperatures normally begin within one day of the 15th of the month. At elevations over 2500 feet, the last of the cold minimums usually occur in the last week of the month. In the warmer eastern sections of Ulster and Greene Counties the last below freezing minimums normally come during the first week of April.

Our Catskill April is, to put it bluntly, not an outdoor month. Even at its best, it is a tease, a promise of the better weather to come. The landscape for nearly all the month, even when free of snow, is as brown and grey as in November. The grass is still packed down from the past winter's snow burden. Snow remains on many of the north-facing slopes and hollows and additional snow is still possible.

The warm side of April can be a blessing. After months of confinement indoors, there is nothing more marvelous than to remain outdoors without an overcoat. How wonderful it is to feel the warmth of the April mid-day sun and to know that the worst of April's cold comes at night when you're in bed. One April Catskill outdoor recreation activity is canoeing, best suited for this time of the year when stream levels are normally high from snow melt.

The chief characteristic of April weather is its variability. Twentieth-century April temperatures have ranged from near zero to above 90, and Catskill Aprils have seen deluge, drought, and a wide range of snowfall.

The records of the Jeffersonville Weather Station in Sullivan County, in operation during the early part of the century, enable us to compare coldness in four of the coldest Aprils by counting the number of days in which the minimum temperature dropped below freezing. In 1904, there were seventeen such days, in 1907, there were twenty, in 1926 there were twenty two and in 1943 there were twenty one. The most recent cold April was in 1975, that recorded 21, 21, and 20 days of below-freezing minimums at Walton, Deposit, and Freehold respectively. To this day, some of the daily extreme record lows of those cold months still stand at Mohonk Lake with its over 100 years of continuous daily readings; 19F on the 20th in 1904, 23F on the 21st in 1907, and 14F on the 6th in 1943. In contrast, some warm Aprils of the early part of the century were noteworthy for the number of 80-degree maximums. In the third week of April 1915, temperatures of over 80F were recorded for four consecutive days in a row at Beerston, Jeffersonville and Mohonk Lake, with 91F, the highest recorded on the 25th at Jeffersonville. In 1941, four nonconsecutive 80 degree days were noted at Jeffersonville, Mohonk Lake, and Roxbury. 90F was recorded on April 20th at Jeffersonville.

While April is not normally a snowy month, there have been numerous April snow events, so that one cannot eliminate snow from a Catskill weather portrait of April. The period from 1961 through 1990 shows average total snowfall to range from one-half to five inches. Of sixteen stations, only Walton and Slide Mountain have amounts of four and five inches. Aprils with over ten inches of snow have been noted about a dozen times during this century.

In 1916 when few stations were regularly measuring snowfall, total April snowfalls of 10 to 15 inches were recorded at Roxbury and Mohonk Lake. At Sharon Springs similar amounts were measured in 1924 and 1940. Two consecutive snowy Aprils came in 1956 and 1957, with snowfall totals over one foot at Mohonk Lake, Cobleskill, Delhi, Liberty, Fishs Eddy, Ellenville, Roxbury and Walton. In 1956, amounts over two feet were registered at Mohonk Lake, Cobleskill, Liberty, Roxbury and Walton. In 1961, seven of eight reporting sites had one foot or greater of total snowfall, with Liberty reporting 32 inches. In 1974, double digit snowfall totals were recorded at seven stations, with Windham measuring fourteen inches. In 1982, April snowfall totals at twelve sites ranged from ten inches at Narrowburg to eighteen inches at Windham. Another snowy April in the following year when snowfall totals exceeded two feet at Cobleskill (25"), Delhi (25"), Kortright (33"), Walton (28"), Windham (32") and Slide Mountain (34"). The most recent April with heavy snowfall (double digit) came in 1986 with 10 to 20 inches measured at eight sites.

Typically, heavy April snow totals are the result of only one or two snowstorms. On April 8, 1956, for example, ten to twenty inches fell at eight sites, with Roxbury recording the greatest amount. On April 7, 1982, ten to fifteen inches was measured at Arkville, Cobleskill, Rosendale and Mohonk Lake, with the latter site recording the greatest amount. On April 20, 1983, eleven to eighteen inches of snow fell at eight sites, with Roxbury showing the greatest amount. The highest official April record of recent years was 23 inches of snowfall coming on April 30th 1986 at Windham. It is well to remember that April snows below 2500 feet rarely remain on the ground more than one or two days.

While April snows are of interest, total precipitation which includes rainfall is of far greater importance. With the start of the growing season and with the needs of the New York City reservoirs, total rainfall amounts become a critical concern. The snow-melt of the previous winter plus normal precipitation for the first four months of the year in the Delaware, Schoharie and Esopus watershed catch-basins will normally insure an adequate supply for both agriculture and for all the cities, towns and municipalities that tap into the reservoir system. At their maximum capacity however, reservoirs can only hold a fixed amount of water. With greater demands, caused by population increase in the New York-Philadelphia region, limits of usage will ultimately be reached. During periodic dry spells, or when water quality becomes an issue, rationing and other measures will have to be taken. Major drought, such as that which occurred in the mid-60s, when precipitation was two-thirds of normal for a four-year period, poses a great economic and social problem.

Twenty-six of the thirty-five Catskill rain gauges with 30-year records, show average April total precipitation of three to four inches. Amounts over four inches are restricted to the eastern high elevation regions of Ulster and Greene Counties. At Slide Mountain and Elka Park, normal April totals exceed five inches. However, total amounts can range from one to ten inches in the Schoharie and Esopus watersheds. Single-day extremes of rainfall have been as great as four to six inches in the high peak regions of the Catskill Park.

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A snowstorm in May
is worth a wagon load of hay
-Old English Proverb

MAY is the month of ''prima vera'' or first green and its arrival after six months of a somber, mostly black and white landscape makes us once again keenly aware of the wonders of nature's changes. Within the span of a few weeks, or even less at times, a bleak grey-brown countryside turns into a riot of green; all shades of green from yellowish to bluish emerge to screen our views of hills, homes, lakes, and roads that were visible only days before. The local flowers; tulips, forsythia, dogwoods, and lilacs that appear in succession are the accent colors to a basic theme of rapidly unfolding green.

As with early snow in the fall, the opening leaf buds, so sensitive to cold temperature at this stage, provide a timely opportunity to see the effects on the Catskills of urbanization, elevation, and bodies of water. Two of nature's colors are greatly dependent on temperature. In the fall, a small difference can turn a landscape from grey-brown to snow-covered white. In like manner, a small temperature change can turn a hillside from faint pale green to deep Kelly green.

The date of the last frost of the season can be one critical factor that determines when the first new green appears. Within our Catskill region, this date normally arrives in May. At eight weather stations with complete records from 1961 to 1990, average last-frost dates range from May 11th to May 27th. The one exception is April 25th for Mohonk Lake, which has a unique mountain-top location that does not capture the usual inversion low temperatures. For the same reason, Slide Mountain, normally the coldest Catskill weather station site, does not have the latest average frost of the season (May 27th), a dubious distinction awarded to Roxbury. While topography can play an important role, elevation is generally the prime determinant, The plateau regions of Delaware and Sullivan Counties with elevations over 1400 feet, have their average last frost of the season in the fourth week of May. Rare late frosts, coming well into mid-June are confined to dawn and daybreak hours. These can be injurious to planted flowers and to gardens, but usually not to native trees and shrubs, that are in full foliage by then. In 1988, Deposit and Liberty recorded their latest frost of record on June 11th.

A warm, early first green period can come from mid-April through the first week of May. In 1991, Cobleskill and Liberty had their last frost within one day of the 16th of April.

During warm clear weather, one can, literally over a period of a few days, literally watch the ``impressionistic'' green of our native deciduous trees creep up the sides of many of the more prominent mountains. Human outdoor activity now begins in full force. The construction trades are now in full operation; agricultural plots, from small gardens to acres of corn are now planted. Boating and fishing are now feasible; golf courses and tennis courts are increasingly active; weekend campers and hikers are now out on the many Catskill trails. Some unique aspects of weather in the Catskills can be seen in an examination of a few of the warmest and coldest Mays of the 20th century.

Early in the century, in the warm May of 1911, temperatures soared to 96F, 94F, and 90F on the 22nd at Jeffersonville, Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns), and Windham respectively.

In any Catskill May, there are always a few days with freezing or below minimum daily temperatures.

In 1918, there were many days with maximum temperatures of 80 degrees and higher; Beerston had 9 such days, Roxbury 6, Jeffersonville 9, and Mohonk Lake 10. Only one or two days that month recorded freezing or below.

In 1944, Jeffersonville and Roxbury recorded eleven days with 80 degree maxima. At Delhi there were 10 such days, with 93F on the 6th.

In 1975, from five to ten days of 80+F maxima were reported at Deposit, Downsville Dam, Freehold, Liberty, Walton, Cobleskill and Mohonk Lake. Freehold had the greatest number of such days. Only Deposit and Downsville Dam had as many as 3 days of freezing and below minimums.

In 1986, eight Catskill stations recorded five to eleven days with maxima of 80 degrees and higher. Deposit, with eleven such days also recorded 90F on the 18th.

The most recent hot May of 1991 showed 80 degrees and higher maxima for the following number of days: Deposit (17), Mohonk Lake (14), East Jewett and Walton (12), and Liberty (11). Not surprisingly, Slide Mountain had only one such day.

Based on past records, in a cold May in the Catskills, there are no 80-degree days. These cold months are notable for the frequency of days with freezing or below. Some cold Mays are as follows:

In 1907, Jeffersonville and Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) had seven and eleven days with 32F and below minimums, and had monthly lows of 20F and 12F on the 12th. in 1915, Beerston and Jeffersonville had five and six such days. Eleven days of freezing and below minimums were recorded at Liberty in May 1917. In 1924, there were only a few days of cold minima, however, high daily temperatures were very low, giving a cool May. In 1925, twelve and ten days of freezing and below minima were noted at Delhi and Jeffersonville. Again in 1935, Delhi reported twelve such days, with Roxbury reporting fifteen. Nine such days were reported in 1945 at Jeffersonville, Delhi and Roxbury (each site). In the cold May of 1956, Walton and Delhi registered 21 and 22F on the 25th and reported ten to thirteen days of freezing and below minima along with Middleburgh and Roxbury. The most recent significantly cold May came in 1967, with Delhi, Roxbury, Walton and Slide Mountain reporting the following number of days (10, 13, 13, 18) with early morning lows of freezing and below.

Rainfall in May is normally quite adequate to support a rush of new foliage in the Catskill valleys, hills, and mountains. Of the 36 Catskill rain gauges measuring May rainfall from 1961 through 1990, most averaged between four and five inches. During a normal May there are about ten days with one hundredth of an inch or more of rainfall. Seven gauges, mainly in the more elevated Esopus watershed, have about five or more inches as their normal May total, with Elka Park and Slide Mountain averaging over five and one half inches. Precipitation amounts normally increase with elevation because of updrafts, which continue to cool moisture-laden air as it rises. The seven gauges showing rainfall of less than four inches, are located in Schoharie County, with Lexington showing the least (3.71").

Of interest is a comparison between Elka Park and Lexington, located only fourteen miles apart in the Schoharie Creek watershed, but showing nearly two inches difference in May rainfall. While both are within Catskill Park, a ``rain shadow,'' caused by their topographical differences (mountain ridge in between), is the most likely reason for the latter gauge's significantly lower amount. This large difference in precipitation persists throughout all the other months of the year.

Averages of seven rain gauges in both the Schoharie and Esopus watersheds dating back to 1906, show the driest Mays have been in 1911, 1926, 1935, 1939, 1959, 1962, 1964, and 1965, when average totals were less than two inches. Severest drought conditions occurred in the early to mid-60s. Wet Mays, with more than double the normal totals (over eight inches) were recorded in 1908, 1940, 1943, 1945, 1952, 1954, 1984, and 1989. The wettest Mays were the most recent (1984 and 1989), when watershed averages were over nine inches in the Schoharie and over ten inches in the Esopus watersheds.

In a typical May, the greatest single day's rain (1.65") falls at Elka Park, Tannersville and Slide Mountain. The western part of the Schoharie basin has the least (1.05").

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June damp and warm
Does the farmer no harm
-Old English motto

AFTER A MAY of ''putting on the green,'' June is nature's settling down time. The rush is over by early June. The rapid leaf unfolding has ended, and on some young trees new growth has reached about half the usual growing season's length. June is the green interlude between the rush of May growth and the July drive of all vegetation toward podding and seeding. After the uncertainty of prolonged warmth in May, all doubt is gone by June and insect activity increases to near maximum.

With the nearing of the summer solstice, sunlight approaches the maximum of over fifteen hours with a foreplay and afterglow of an additional two hours of twilight. In the early dawn, birds are bursting with song, so that late-rising Catskill visitors have to close their windows, or cover their heads with a pillow, in order to get another hour or more of sleep. These are the long sweet days we bought and paid for by enduring those long, cold nights and short, bitter days at the end of the year.

Rainfall is the crucial factor in vegetation growth during June. Happily, extreme drought is a rarity in June. Double digit averages (less than 1.00 inch) for the entire Esopus watershed have occurred only once (1988) since 1906, as monitored by the New York City Water Department. That month was preceded and followed by above normal amounts of rainfall.

Dry Junes, with less than an average of two inches have occurred eleven and nine times in the Esopus and Schoharie. Three pairs of consecutive dry Junes came in 1912, 13, 1964, 65 and 1970, 71. The middle pair came during the major 20th century extreme drought period of 1963 through 1966. Other dry Junes were those of 1949, 1988, and 1991.

Normal June rainfall ranges from three to four inches at 15 of 36 Catskill gauges reporting from 1961 to 1990. The remaining precipitation collecting stations average between four and five inches, except for Slide Mountain and Elka Park each with just over five inches.

Averages conceal the wide range of total rainfall. Even at Cobleskill and Prattsville, both of which show the least June average total (3.50"), have in the past 40 years ranged from less than one inch to over seven inches of rainfall.

The Esopus watershed, as measured by its seven long-term rain gauges, is the wettest of the New York City watershed catchment basins. Extremely wet Junes, with quadruple-digit average totals (greater than 10.00 inches) have been measured there in 1928, 1972, and 1973. These amounts, well over double the June normal total, have caused extensive local flooding. Other years of noteworthy heavy June rainfall were 1903, 1922, 1976, 1982, 1983 and 1989.

Rainfall during wet months is generally confined to a few days rather than spread out throughout the month. During the wet Junes of 1972 and 1982, for example, one-day rainfalls of 4.92 and 4.00 inches were measured at Slide Mountain and Elka Park respectively. These single day amounts are close to the norm at those locations for the entire month of June and can be expected less than once in 100 years. More typical, is a heavy 24-hour rainfall of one to one and a half inches.

Catskill June temperatures come close to the ideal of not too hot or too cold. Days with maximum temperatures over 90F or minimums in the 30s are infrequent. In a cold June, the coldest low temperatures one can expect are in the mid 30s. These occur about dawn, early in the month. The hottest normal daytime temperatures are in the high 80s occurring in the early afternoon, usually late in the month.

A sampling of characteristic cold Junes recorded at official Weather Bureau or Weather Service cooperative stations is as follows:

In 1897, South Kortright registered eight days with minimum temperatures in the 30s. 32F was noted on the 21st. In 1902, South Kortright recorded six days of low marks in the 30s, while Windham and Griffin Corners had four. The cold June of 1903 showed 5 days at Griffin Corners and South Kortright with lows in the 30s. The thermometer dipped to the freezing mark on the first at Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns), followed by two more days with minimums in the 30s. In 1912, Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) and Beerston recorded 30F on the 8th, while Jeffersonville had 32F. In 1918, Roxbury had eight days of minimums in the 30s and Jeffersonville had six. On June 20, 1926, below freezing readings were recorded at Delhi, Jeffersonville and Roxbury, with eight days of minimums in the 30s at the latter two stations. The cold June of 1927 had ten days of lows in the 30s at Jeffersonville and Delhi, with the latter site recording 31F on the 2nd. The thirty years that followed had no Junes with temperatures much below average. On June 7, 1958, below freezing was recorded at Delhi, Walton, and Roxbury, with the latter two sites having eight days with minimums in the 30s. In 1980, Downsville Dam and Walton had eight and nine days with minimums in the 30s. On the 11th of that month, freezing and below was recorded at Liberty, Slide Mountain and Downsville Dam. June 1982 and 1985 were cold because of low maximum temperatures rather than many 30 degree lows. The most recent cold June was 1988, when freezing and below marks were set on the 10th at Slide Mountain, Walton, Deposit, Delhi and East Jewett. The latter two sites had ten and nine days of lows in the 30s. Cold Catskill Junes have no 90 degree temperatures.

In distinct contrast are the hot Junes of the last 100 years with well above normal temperatures (at least 3F greater than normal). All had days with temperatures above 90F.

In 1895, South Kortright recorded two days with highs of 90 degrees and above. In 1919, a (June 2-5) heat wave was registered at Jeffersonville, Mohonk Lake, Roxbury and Walton, with 98F at the latter site. In 1925, another early heat wave was reported at five stations, with Jeffersonville and Mohonk Lake showing six consecutive days of 90 degree highs ending on the 8th. Rifton reported 102F on the 4th. In 1933, Jeffersonville, Delhi and Roxbury registered 4, 5, and 7 days respectively of 90+ maximum temperatures. In 1943, Middleburgh reported nine days of 90 degree maximas and a high of 96F on the 26th. In 1949, Cobleskill and Sharon Springs in Schoharie County reported seven days of 90 degree highs. Cairo, in the normally warmer Hudson Valley Climate Division reported three heat waves. A heat wave is defined as three or more days of 90+ maxima. Cobleskill and Cairo, in 1957 had heat waves and eight and eleven days of 90 and over.

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TO THE TOURIST, vacationer or resort visitor, the most familiar Catskill weather is that of the summer, the time of the best of the year's warmth, without the stifling and oppressive moist heat of coastal cities. In the heyday of the resort era, from the 1930s through the 1960s, the Catskills (principally Sullivan County), were the prime summer vacation place for many thousands of New York City residents. Even at the present time, most visitors come to the Catskills during the warmest months. While any vacation time during the school-free summer months is cherished, the best time to escape the hottest weeks of the year comes during the latter half of July.

Be it New York City or the five-county Catskill region, the normally hottest week of the year is the third week of July, during which the year's average hottest maximum and hottest daily average temperature occurs. At eight Catskill weather stations, the average hottest days run from the 17th through the 20th. Similar to the coldest week of the year in January that follows the Winter Solstice by about one month, the hottest week follows the Summer Solstice by about the same number of days. Average daily high temperatures peak between 81 and 85 degrees during these four days, with Mohonk Lake showing the lowest and Walton the highest temperatures for elevations below 2000 feet. It should be pointed out that the hottest days of July do not always fall on the above dates. The dates given are the averages for July for 1961 through 1990.

Average daily temperatures also peak during this period with Delhi, Downsville Dam, and Liberty showing 70F, Walton 71F, Cobleskill and Deposit 72F, and Mohonk Lake 73F. New York City peaks at 88F on the 18th and its hottest average is 79F. For locations over 2000 feet elevation, the Slide Mountain weather station shows a peak average daily maximum of 75F and a peak average daily mean of 65F. The normal range of July average daily temperatures is six degrees, the coolest part of which is six degrees lower than the immediately preceding figures.

Extremely high temperatures (such as 101F at Delhi and Roxbury in 1936, their hottest of record) can be expected once in 200 years; temperatures in the high 90s are expected once in 100 years at seven other weather station sites.

Normal July lowest temperatures are in the 40s. However at Downsville Dam, Walton, Roxbury, Deposit, Delhi, and Slide Mountain along with other high peak sites, minimum temperatures in the high 30s do occur in July at least once every 10 years.

From an examination of some of the hottest and coldest Julys of the century, one can get a sense of the range of Catskill temperature possibilities.

South Kortright, in 1897 had eight consecutive days (4th to 11th) of 90+ degree maxima. The village of Catskill had five days of 90+ highs. In 1898, South Kortright had nine days with 90+ highs. Catskill village had four. In 1901 Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) and Walton recorded seven days of 90 plus. A high of 97F was registered in Walton on the 21st. In 1916, high minimum temperatures at Beerston, Mohonk Lake, and Jeffersonville, with only a few days of 90+ degree highs made this a hot July. In 1921, Jeffersonville (the only reporting station that July), recorded 4 days with 90+ maxima and a lowest minimum of 49F. In 1931, both Jeffersonville and Delhi had lowest minimums of 47F with three days of 90+ maxima. July 1949 was torrid but highly variable in the number of hot days. Cairo, the hot spot in the normally warmer Hudson Valley Climate Division, registered 4 days with 100+ degree maxima and nineteen days over 90F. Middleburgh, Roxbury, and Rifton respectively reported 14, 11, and 10 such days. Surprisingly, Sharon Springs had only 4, Delhi only 3 and Walton only 1 day of 90 degrees or higher. In 1952, Cairo reported eighteen days of 90-degree highs. Rifton and Middleburgh each reported ten and Ellenville eight. The most recent super-hot July was 1955, when Ellenville, Rifton and Cairo registered over 100F maxima on the 22nd and over 20 days of 90+ maxima. Cobleskill, Delhi and Roxbury respectively had 12, 10, and 15 such days.

In sharp contrast are the cold Julys with few or no 90 degree highs and some days with minimums in the 30s.

In 1891, South Kortright, the only reporting Catskill station in those early years of daily temperature readings, had daily means in the 50s on ten days. This indicates a combination of highs and lows of less than 80F and 40F. In 1895, South Kortright had six days of minima in the 30s. The month's low was 36F on the 12th. In 1920, Roxbury and Walton had ten days of minima in the 40s, with four consecutive such days from the 25th to the 29th. Unseasonably cold nights in 1925 resulted from 12, 10 and 8 episodes of low temperatures in the 40s at Roxbury, Delhi and Jeffersonville. Another cold July came in 1932, with no 90-degree marks. in which Delhi, Roxbury, and Jeffersonville respectively had 12, 11, and 10 nights with lows in the 40s. In 1960, Walton, Roxbury and Delhi respectively had 16, 13, and 8 nights with lows in the 40s. On July 6th, 38F, 36F and 39F was registered at those weather station locations. 1962 featured the coldest July in the Eastern Plateau Climate Division. Most stations had only one day in which the temperature crept up to the 90 degree mark. At Cobleskill, Delhi, Downsville Dam, Middleburgh, Roxbury, Slide Mountain, and Walton there were 9, 16, 14, 16, 18, 19, and 21 days, respectively, with lows in the 40s or less. At Roxbury, low temperatures in the 30s were noted from the 2nd to the 7th, with the low of 34F on the 6th.

Summer vacationers abhor daytime rain, which translates into less sunshine and thus less outdoor activity. July is the month of swimming, when open bodies of water have warmed up to be most suitable for bathers and active swimmers. A rainy day will put a hold on such activity. Of course, farmers and gardeners have a different point of view. Ideally, all summer rain or any rain for that matter, should come at night. Rainfall in July can be an iffy business, with some Julys giving a seeming endless sequence of sunshine, while other Julys can have a string of cloudy, rainy days and nights. The true situation is usually in between; generally, rain is heavy but less persistent.

Thunderstorm activity can cause wide differences in rainfall, with some locales reporting deluges of two or more inches in a short period of time, while only a short distance away the thunder is heard but only a sprinkle is felt.

Normal July precipitation for thirty-six Catskill rain gauges averages about four inches, with twenty stations reporting under four inches and seventeen stations over four inches. The wettest locations are Slide Mountain, (4.71 inches) and Lake Hill, (4.55 inches). These amounts would be typical of other high peak areas. Least July totals are at Roxbury and Prattsville, each with 3.31 inches. The Esopus and Schoharie watersheds with their multiple rain gauges, average 3.81 and 3.54 inches. A wet July can be considered one with double the normal rainfall. In the above watersheds, the years 1915, 1916, 1919, 1928, 1935, 1945, 1969, and 1988 fell into that category. The wettest years were 1945 when the Esopus watershed averaged 11.84 inches, and 1935 when the Schoharie watershed averaged 8.87 inches. A dry July can be considered to be one with less than two inches. The driest Catskill Julys were 1910, 1911, 1929, 1936, 1949, 1955, 1965, 1972 and 1980. During a normal July, the greatest 24-hour amount is between one and one and one half inches. During a non-normal July event, a one day rainfall as great as five inches is possible.

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Fairest of months! Ripe Summer's queen
The Hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen
Sweet August doth appear
R. Combe Miller

TO THE CASUAL OBSERVER August can seem to be a carbon copy of July. Daytime temperatures appear to give the same warmth, and outdoor summer activities continue unabated. However, when you move about and look carefully, you can sense a difference between these summer months. July was growth and podding, August is the start of harvest time. Gardeners now display their local produce of squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and beets. Ragweed and Goldenrod are also late August products causing discomfort to many.

A more subtle difference is the change of light. The sun has a slightly different angle than it did in early July, and by August we have lost an hour and a half of daily sunlight since the solstice. Each day, the sun is setting further southward on the western horizon. By the last week of August, the first touch of autumn often reaches the Catskills in the form of a strong cold front, followed by a day or two of crystal clear skies and chilly night temperatures. This is a touch that July never had.

There is no lack of heat in a normal Catskill August, with average monthly maximums in the high 80s at nine weather station sites. Warm sites in the Esopus watershed and in the lower elevations of Ulster and Greene counties attain 90+ degree maximums about once every August. The hottest 20th-century Augusts described below reveal the heat potential in the Catskills.

In the year 1900, six, seven and eight days with high temperatures in the 90s were recorded at Liberty, Windham, and Walton respectively. The lowest temperature recorded that month at Liberty was 50F. In 1928, Roxbury reported four days with 90+ degree maxima and a lowest temperature of 41F. Jeffersonville had one 90 degree day and a low of 43F. 1937 had the warmest August to that year since 1890 for New York State. Delhi and Roxbury recorded three days of 90-degree maxima. Night-time temperatures were high, with minimums in the mid-40s at Sharon Springs and Jeffersonville plus the former two sites. The year 1938 had another hot August (3rd warmest for that year) with high minimum temperatures. Mohonk Lake had a low of 55F. Both Sharon Springs and Roxbury recorded four days with 90 degree maxima.

Heat wave conditions in 1944, with three or more consecutive days of 90 degree maxima, were registered at Delhi and Middleburgh, with the former site having such heat from the 10th through the 16th. Both stations had eleven days of 90+ maxima, with Roxbury, Mohonk Lake and Jeffersonville having eight, seven and five such days respectively. In 1947, heat waves occurred at Middleburgh, Roxbury and Delhi as those locations registered eight, seven and six days with highs of 90+ degrees. Statewide, this August equaled 1937 as the hottest since 1890. In 1949, Cairo and Rifton in the warmer Hudson Valley Division, registered 102F and 101F on the 10th in addition to having twelve and eight days of maximums 90 degrees and higher. Roxbury and Sharon Springs 1, had seven such days. The year 1955 had the hottest August of the century, with the greatest number of Catskill stations having the greatest number of days with 90+ degrees. Both Rifton and Cairo registered fourteen such days. Roxbury and Middleburgh had thirteen, while Ellenville and Cobleskill had twelve and ten. 100+F records were set on the 5th of the month at Cairo, Rifton, Ellenville and Cobleskill. Rifton reported the highest of 105F that day. More heat wave conditions returned in 1959, with Ellenville and Cairo reporting sixteen and fourteen days with 90+ highs. At Middleburgh, 98F was registered on the 16th, that site recording twelve days of 90+ high temperatures. Cobleskill and Walton had seven such days. The most recent hot August came in 1988, with a heat wave from the 11th through the 16th at Liberty and Cairo. Delhi, Deposit and Liberty all had eight days of 90+ maxima. Cobleskill had nine and Walton five such days.

The above outstanding Augusts were the hottest of the 20th century record to date. While there have been other warmer-than-normal Catskill Augusts such as (1939 and 1973), they had no significant aspects of heat.

What is noteworthy about cold Catskill Augusts is the total lack of 90-degree maximum temperatures and the frequency of daily minimum temperatures in the 30s. Only twice during this century have significantly colder Augusts occurred in consecutive years.

The first of these pairs came in 1902, when both South Kortright and Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) in Delaware County reported three days with low temperatures in the 30s. The following year, 1903, had four days in the 30s at South Kortright, with only three days with high temperatures in the 80s at Walton, and Mohonk Lake only had one. The cold August of 1912 was noted for its frigid last two days when minimum daily temperatures at five sites ranged from 32F at Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) to 38F at Liberty.

Statewide, 1927 had the coldest August since 1903. Catskill weather station locations showed Delhi with three days of low marks in the 30s and only two days that had 80 degree or higher readings. At Jeffersonville, two days had lows in the 30s and only two highs in the 80s. August 1946, was the fourth coldest since 1890, with a low of 32F at Roxbury on the 30th. Jeffersonville recorded 35F on the 31st.

Two days of low marks in the 30s were recorded at Delhi and the above two stations. Mohonk Lake had only two days where the mercury reached 80F or higher. During the back to back cold Augusts of 1963 and 1964 the former showed no extremes in the 30s. Mohonk Lake had only four days with high marks in the 80s. In 1964, Roxbury had four days with lows in the 30s, one as early as the 4th of the month. Walton had two such days.

In 1982, six Catskill sites on the 29th registered low temperature marks from 31 to 36F. Coldest was at Walton. Delhi and Slide Mountain had four days with lows in the 30s. Downsville Dam and Liberty had three days of such lows. At Mohonk Lake, that month showed only two days with highs in the 80s. Other cool, but not cold Augusts occurred in 1986, 1987 and 1992.

The Catskill rainfall regimes of August as judged by the three dozen gauges, show a wide range of possibilities. Total August rainfall can measure as little as two digits (less than one inch) to as great as well over ten inches (four digits). In the years 1899, 1910, 1913, 1923, 1947, 1953, 1981 and 1982, as little as less than one inch fell at many sites in the five-county Catskill region. At the other extreme during the hurricane month of August 1955 over ten inches was common, with over twenty inches measured in the high peak region around Slide Mountain and Elka Park. Other wet Augusts, with over twice the normal precipitation in the Esopus and Schoharie watersheds, were measured in 1915, 1928, 1933, 1971 and 1990.

Similar to July, precipitation totals center around four inches, with 20 rain gauges averaging less than that amount and sixteen above that figure for the 1961-1990 period. Slide Mountain (4.91") and Claryville (4.70") show the greatest totals while Cobleskill (3.15") averages the least.

In a normal August, ten days have at least .01 inch rainfall. In a typical August, the heaviest 24-hour rainfall reaches 1.75 inches in the high peak Catskill Park region and about 1.00 inch around Cobleskill. However, August 19, 1955 gave three Catskill sites their heaviest one-day amounts of record. Mohonk Lake, Liberty and Kortright measured 6.35, 5.03 and 2.90 inches. At the first two stations, rainfall of that amount is likely only once in 200 years.

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September blow soft, till fruit's in the loft
-Old English Proverb

CLIMATOLOGICALLY, summer ends after the first week of September since, for most long-term temperature stations the last of the warmest 91 days of the year is the 8th of the month. As the fourth warmest month of the year, September is only three to five degrees colder than June. Over the years, it has shown itself to be a comfortable outdoor month.

In September, days are shortening as fast as they were lengthening in March, with the sun setting directly west at the autumnal equinox. September gives us warm days, cool nights, fog at dawn over the Hudson valley, and touches of scarlet on the soft maples, sumac, tupelos and Virginia Creeper near the end of the month. Along the edges of fields, stone walls and local roads are the pigweeds, burdock, asters, thistles and goldenrod now in the process of spreading their seed products.

Temperatures at seven Catskill sites with long-term records reveal the benign character of September, with early month normal highs in the mid 70s, dropping to the mid 60s by the end of the month. During the first week, a day or two of highs in the mid-80s can also be expected. For hikers enjoying the start of the foliage season at elevations over 2500 feet, September daily highs will normally range from 58F at the start of the month to 48F at the end of the month.

Normal low temperatures at the start of September are in the low 50s and drop to the low 40s by the end of the month. During that last week there is at least one day, near dawn when the mercury normally drops to freezing or just below. At higher elevations the normal September range is from 48 to 39F.

Breaking from the normal mode are the Septembers that reveal a different climate. Some of the hottest Septembers of the past 100 years, resembled summer months.

In 1900, there were ten September days with maximum temperatures in the 80s at Liberty, twelve such days at Walton and nine at Windham. Walton recorded 90F on the 11th. In 1906, Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) reported eight days of highs in the 80s, Jeffersonville had eleven, Liberty had five, and Mohonk Lake had four. In 1915, Beerston had thirteen days with highs in the 80s or above including 90F on the 9th. Roxbury recorded eleven 80 days, Mohonk Lake ten and Jeffersonville nine. In 1921, the warmest September in New York State since 1890, 91 and 93F were registered on the 2nd at Jeffersonville and Walton which had twelve and ten days with high temperature marks over 80 degrees. In the cooler September of 1930, Sharon Springs 2 had nine days of highs in the 80s, Jeffersonville had seven and Roxbury had five. In 1931, the hottest September since 1890, Delhi and Jeffersonville recorded heat waves (three or more consecutive days of 90 degrees) from the 10th to the 13th. Jeffersonville had five days with 90-degree maximums and nine days of highs in the 80s and higher. Delhi and Roxbury had ten days with highs of 80 degrees or more. The latter station registered 95F on the 12th.

In 1934, another warm September had few high temperatures with only three in the 80s at Jeffersonville and six at Delhi, with many high minimums and with no freezing temperatures In 1959, over 90F was registered at four sites on the 9th. Ellenville and Cobleskill had 94F highs that day, with 92F at Walton and Middleburgh. Middleburgh and Ellenville had eighteen days with marks in the 80s or higher. Cobleskill with seventeen such days, had a heat wave from the 6th to the 9th. Cairo, Delhi, and Walton recorded 14 days of 80-degree maxima and higher.

In the sizzling September of 1961, five stations registered at least one day of 90 degrees or higher. At Cairo, the Ulster County hot box during its period of taking temperature readings, 90+ temperatures were recorded on nine days. Along with Cairo, Downsville Dam had nineteen days of marks 80 degrees and higher. Cobleskill and Delhi had seventeen, Middleburgh twenty, Roxbury sixteen and Liberty fifteen. A hot month indeed!

The defining characteristics of a cold September are the number of days with minimums in the 30s and the frequency of freezing and below minimums. At seven of eleven Catskill temperature stations, freezing or below minimums can be expected at least once in September. Lows in the 30s are regular events at all locations. What determines a cold September is the number of such days. It should be noted again that daily September lows just under 32F rarely impact human activity since they occur near dawn. Their effect on vegetation depends on the duration of the below-freezing temperature and, of course, on the sensitivity of the plants involved.

In 1917, the coldest September statewide since 1893 Roxbury and Jeffersonville recorded thirteen days with low temperatures in the 30s. At the former site, four of those days were freezing or below, while at the latter site there were three such days. Beerston had three days of freezing or below.

September 1918 in New York State was the coldest since official Weather Bureau records began in 1890. Jeffersonville recorded nine days with lows in the 30s and three 32F or below. At Roxbury, there were eight days in the 30s and there at freezing or below. In 1924, Jeffersonville, Roxbury, Delhi and Sharon Springs 2 recorded nine, eight, six, and five days, respectively, with lows in the 30s. The first three sites reported five, three and two days of freezing and below.

In 1935, Jeffersonville, Roxbury and Sharon Springs 2 all reported six days of temperature lows in the 30s. Delhi had nine such days. All these sites had one or two days of 32F or below.

An even colder September came in 1938, when Roxbury, Delhi and Jeffersonville had freezing or below lows on four, three and three days respectively. Lows in the 30s were noted on twelve, ten and eleven days for the same order of stations. Cold returned to September in 1950, after a 22 year lapse with four to seven days of lows in the 30s at six eastern plateau Catskill locations. Five of these sites reported freezing or below. Walton had four such days and Roxbury had three. In 1956, Middleburgh and Roxbury reported five and six days with low temperature marks of freezing or below. Eight weather station sites reported six to twelve days of lows in the 30s,with Middleburgh showing the greatest number. The greatest decade for September cold was the 1960s with three years of noteworthy chill.

In 1962, five sites registered record lows in the upper 20s on the 21st of the month, with 25F at Slide Mountain, the coldest. There were many daily lows in the 30s: Roxbury, 19, Walton, 16, Slide Mountain, 15, Middleburgh, 12 and Downsville Dam, 10. Record-breaking September cold returned the following year in 1963, with two to six days of 32F and below at nine Catskill locations. Downsville Dam, Roxbury, Slide Mountain and Walton had the greatest number of such days. On the 24th of the month, the mercury dipped to the low 20s and below at six sites, with Roxbury recording 19F. At Slide Mountain, there were fifteen days of lows in the 30s, followed by Roxbury with thirteen.

In September 1966, cold came primarily from persistent coolness of daytime hours, rather than from numerous minimums in the 30s. After the first three days, there were no 80 days. Freezing temperatures and below were noted mainly at Slide Mountain and Roxbury.

In 1976, five days of freezing and below were reported at Walton, Downsville Dam, and Slide Mountain. Liberty and Walton had ten days of lows in the 30s while Slide Mountain and Downsville Dam had thirteen and eleven. In 1978, Liberty and Walton registered 5 days of 32F and below, with Slide Mountain, 4 and Downsville Dam, 3. At five sites, with Slide Mountain reporting the greatest number, there were five to fourteen days of lows in the 30s. The most recent cold September occurred in 1984, with six to twelve days of low temperatures in the 30s. Liberty reported the greatest number, Slide Mountain and Walton had eleven such days, while Downsville Dam and Deposit had ten. Slide Mountain registered four days with freezing and below.

September is a drier month than the three previous summer months, with only nine of the 36 Catskill rain gauges averaging a total greater than four inches. For the 1961 to 1990 period, averages range from 3.15 and 3.18 inches at Cobleskill and Roxbury to 4.72 and 4.82 inches at Slide Mountain and Elka Park. The extreme Catskill range of precipitation possibilities is enormous. During the drought year of 1964, 0.07 inches fell at Phoenicia; in 1942, 15.52 inches was measured at Elka Park. When ten dry Septembers are ranked in order of severity, the year 1964 stands out as first in drought, with most Catskill gauges measuring under one inch total rainfall. The seven gauges in each of the Esopus and Schoharie watersheds averaged between one half and three quarters of an inch. Close behind in severity was 1914, when watershed averages were about 0.75 inches. In 1943, the watershed averages were just under one inch. In 1917 just over an inch was measured, followed by September 1972 with slightly more. September 1941 had about 1.25 inches followed by 1948, 1980, 1990 and 1988. Even the least dry of these years had less than half the normal rainfall (about 2 inches).

When the wettest Septembers of the Esopus and Schoharie watersheds are ranked, 1924 stands out with nearly three times the normal amount. That year is closely followed by September 1907. Well over double the normal rainfall fell in these watersheds in 1977. These Septembers were followed by those of 1942 and 1934, both with about double the normal amount for the month.

September's normal daily maximum rainfall ranges from 1.07 inches at Prattsville to 1.90 inches at Elka Park. Three Catskill rain gauges recorded their greatest of record calendar day amounts in September. These were Cobleskill with 3.31 inches in 1960, Sundown with 4.10 inches in 1987 and Lake Delaware with 4.16 inches in 1953. However, they don't come close to Slide Mountain with 7.58 inches in 1924 and Elka Park with 5.80 inches in 1942.

The wide range of rainfall possibilities only confirms the belief that Catskill weather should be taken seriously, even in mild months such as September.

Catskill Weather TrendsUpdates


Now autumn's fire burns slowly among the woods
And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt
-William Allingham

CATSKILL OCTOBERS are a kaleidoscope of color. From the predominant green landscape of September, over a short period of weeks we are treated to a technicolor display that is the envy of many a European visitor. Beginning with the September scarlet flashes of sumac and Virginia Creeper, the color show continues with the red-orange of Poison Ivy, the lemon-yellow of Elms, the bronze to eggplant purple of White Ash, the brilliant red of the soft Maples, the yellow of the birches, the golden orange of the Sugar Maples and finally with the crimson, maroon, and burgundy Oak leaves that hang on till they turn a warm, leathery brown.

Each succeeding day presents a change of scenery, and the change of daily weather matches the rapidity of that metamorphosis.

In late September, the Catskill swales and hollows are first visited before dawn by that elusive legendary creature ''Jack Frost,'' who disappears with the first rays of sunlight. By the latter part of October his less shy, big brother ''Hard Freeze'' has made his appearance and he walks boldly upon the land, hilltop and valley at dusk as well as dawn. During October, average daily temperatures show a rapidly drop by twelve degrees, the greatest such monthly change since April.

As measured at seven long-term temperature monitoring U.S. Weather Stations at Delhi, Deposit, Downsville Dam, Walton, Liberty, Cobleskill, and Mohonk Lake, normal daily high temperatures during October range from the mid 60s at the beginning of October to the low 50s at the end of the month. The only station that differs from this is Slide Mountain where maximum temperatures range from 59F to 46F. Being higher in elevation and thus cooler, it represents the elevations from two to three thousand feet.

Normal Catskill daily low October temperatures range from the low 40s at the month's start to just below 30F at the end of the month. The one exception is at Mohonk Lake where daily lows range from 49 to 38F. Topography and its location within the warmer Hudson Valley Climate Division explain this difference.

Cold Catskill Octobers are noted for their greater number of days with freezing and below daily minimum temperatures. An examination of these months at the temperature monitoring sites active in the following years reveals their cold character.

In 1895 and 1896, South Kortright recorded 23 and 17 days with minimums of freezing or below. In 1907, Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) recorded nineteen days with minimums of 32F or below. On five of those days lows were in the teens. Jeffersonville and Windham recorded eighteen and sixteen days of freezing or below and one day each in the teens. In 1917, Roxbury, Jeffersonville and Beerston had thirteen, twelve, and ten days of lows 32F or below, respectively. In 1925, New York State had the coldest October since the start of formal recording in 1890. Delhi and Roxbury had nineteen days of freezing or below lows, while Jeffersonville and Sharon Springs 2 had eighteen and fourteen. Single digit lows were registered at all four stations on the 31st (coldest of record). In 1940, the number of days with freezing or below minimums were Jeffersonville (18), Roxbury (17), Delhi (14), Sharon Springs (13), and Mohonk Lake (11). Seven days of lows in the teens were noted at Jeffersonville, while Delhi and Roxbury had six. Sharon Springs 2 had four. Over thirty years were to elapse before a comparable cold October arrived. The the first of three severe Octobers in the 1970s was that of 1972. At eight stations, the number of days with 32F and below were: Slide Mountain (22), Liberty (18), Downsville Dam (17), Walton (15), Cobleskill (13), Deposit and Freehold (12), and Mohonk Lake (8). One to three days of lows in the teens were recorded at all stations except Mohonk Lake. Downsville Dam and Slide Mountain had three.

In 1974, Cobleskill, Deposit and Freehold had 14 days of freezing or below minimums, Slide Mountain had 21, Liberty had 18, Downsville Dam and Walton had 17, while Mohonk Lake only had five. There were two to five days with lows in the teens at all stations except Mohonk Lake. Walton had five such days. Two years later, October 1976 was a near repeat of the numbers of cold lows with the same eight stations showing: Slide Mountain, 20, Downsville Dam, 18, Liberty, 17, Freehold, 15, Deposit and Walton, 14, Cobleskill, 13, and Mohonk Lake, 5. Except for Mohonk Lake all sites had at least one day with lows in the teens, Slide Mountain registering the greatest number of five.

A slightly warmer October came in 1980 with fewer days below freezing and lows in the teens. The number of days with lows 32F and below were: Slide Mountain, 20, Liberty, 14, Walton, 12, Downsville Dam, 11, Cobleskill, 8, Deposit, 7, and Mohonk Lake, 2. Only two sites reported lows in the teensDownsville Dam and Walton. In October 1981, the same eight stations (except for Mohonk Lake) recorded 13 to 19 days with lows of freezing or below. Delhi was the only site with a teen low in the teens. In 1987, October gave the Catskills snow in its first week, East Jewett had 24 days of freezing and below, Liberty had 22, Delhi had 20, Slide Mountain had 18, Walton had 16, while balmy Mohonk Lake had none. In October 1988, seven sites (including Cairo) had thirteen to twenty two days of freezing and below minimums, with Cobleskill having the fewest and Liberty the greatest number. Five sites registered one low in the teens.

The most recent cold October was 1992, with fourteen to twenty-two days with lows of 32F or below. East Jewett and Delhi had the greatest number of such days.

In addition to average temperature, a marker for hot Octobers is the number of days with highs in the 80s. One or more such days in a warm October are found at nearly every temperature station site.

In 1900, two days of 80+ highs were registered at Walton and Windham, with 88F and 87F on the 6th. Second only to 1900 in warmth for New York State up to that year, 1920 showed four days at Jeffersonville with maximum temperatures in the 80s. Walton had two such days.

In 1947, the warmest October statewide, the number of days with highs in the 80s were Middleburgh 12; Delhi and Roxbury, 5. In 1954, the warmer locales of Rifton and Cairo reported eight and six days of 80+ high marks. Other Catskill sites showed: Ellenville (7), Middleburgh (6) and Cobleskill (3). The greatest number of stations reporting a hot October was in 1963, when nine sites reported two to eight days of maxima the 80s. Middleburgh reported the greatest number with eight while the least was Downsville Dam with two.

In 1971, warmth was the result of fewer days with freezing and below minimums as six sites recorded only one day with an 80+ high. Roxbury had two. Fewer minimums rather than a greater number of 80+ maximums made both 1984 and 1990 noteworthy hot Octobers.

In addition to the two winter months of January and February, October is a dry month. It averages only nine days of rainfall greater than one hundredth of an inch, the least of the year. Only four Catskill sites average greater than four inches. October can include long dry spells of clear cool air, punctuated by a few periods heavy rain.

An examination of the Esopus and Schoharie watersheds reveals that the greatest concentration of dry Octobers came near and during the extended drought of the mid 1960s. Those years were 1961, 1963, and 1964, when rainfall at most sites averaged usually less than an inch (about one quarter of normal). Earlier dry Octobers were those of 1952, 1928, 1924 and 1910, which also averaged less than one inch.

A wet October can be the result of the passing of a tropical storm, with a super-abundance of rain. The years 1932, 1955 and 1959 are most noteworthy in that respect as they produced three times the normal October rainfall in the Esopus and Schoharie watersheds.

October 1955 gave the Catskills a memorable rainfall of 10 or more inches.

In a normal October, the range of greatest 24-hour rainfall is from 1.14 inches in the drier region of Delaware County to 1.75 inches in the high peak Catskill Park. Multiples of these amounts fell in one day during the October 1955 deluge month. Five rain gauges registered their greatest 24 hour amounts of record on the 15th of that October. These were: Glenford, 7.25"; Slide Mountain, 8.24"; Grand Gorge, 4.80"; Ellenville, 6.59"; and Roxbury, 5.65".

While October snowfall in the Catskills is never considered in weather forecasting, it does occur often enough to figure in climatological statistical frequencies. During Octobers with below normal temperatures, snow above 3000 feet is a regular feature. Although it rarely lasts more than a day or two it does serve to enhance the beauty of the high peaks.

Based on the studies of nine long-term Catskill stations that monitor snowfall, a 1-2 inch snowfall event can be expected once every ten years, and 2-4 inches is a once in twenty-year event. Aside from snowfall in the high peak Catskill Park region, when measurable snow does fall, it comes in the last week of the month, and occurs only once. In the 20th century, significant October snowfalls of two inches and greater have occurred about fifteen times. This figure differs from the more generalized five times per century cited above.

The greatest and earliest October snowfall came on October 4, 1987, when single-day amounts over one foot were measured unofficially at many high peak locations. Officially, Windham registered 14 inches, Slide Mountain had a minimum of 17 inches and East Jewett reported 22 inches.

Catskill Weather TrendsUpdates


November's sky is chill and drear
November's leaf is red and sear
-Marmion, Canto I<

NOVEMBER can be thought of as the interval between colorful October and dark December, without any particularly unique features or it can be recognized as a month with its own character. The Catskill landscape has now been stripped of its leaf cover and the outlines of hills, ridges and dwellings hidden for the past six months are now starkly visible. In the meadows, fields and nearby woods, shades of brown are the dominant colors, from the striking tan of the beech leaves to the dark, black brown of many of the fallen leaves that mat the ground. The pines, hemlocks, and other evergreens act to provide the accent color to this almost bleak scene. There is a chill in the daytime air, not like the caress of June or September, nor quite like the nip of January. It is air that makes one breathe deeply and walk briskly. When this air blows hard, it touches another of our senses. For the first time since early April the sound of the wind can be heard indoors.

It is difficult to define November climate by using monthly average temperatures, and probability tables of temperature events only capture the rare event. One method is to examine high and low temperature ranges. These show that for six long-term temperature collecting sites in Delaware and Sullivan counties the average range of November daily high temperatures is from 58F to 38F, while the range of daily low temperatures is from 36F to 24F. The Slide Mountain station, representing elevations up to 3000 feet shows a range for highs of 51F to 35F and 33F to 21F for daily lows. At Mohonk Lake, representing the warmer Hudson Valley Climate Division of Ulster and Greene Counties, the range for highs is 56 to 40F and 41 to 28F.

Another method is to identify the cold and hot Novembers of the past and point out their predominant features. A look at cold Novembers shows that most of these have a few days at the beginning of the month with high daily temperatures in the 60s and a few days at the end of the month with single-digit low daily marks. These are as follows:

In 1901, Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) and Walton had ten days of low daily temperatures in the teens or below. South Kortright had nine such days. Each station had a monthly low of a single-digit. In 1903, Windham and South Kortright had ten days with lows in the teens or below. Liberty, Walton and Mohonk Lake reported nine, eight, and seven. Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) had eleven including six days of single-digit lows. On the 26th, South Kortright and Walton registered -5F and -2F. Even with all this cold, there were three to five days of highs in the 60s. In 1904, there were no days with highs in the 60s. Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) reported nine days with low marks in the teens or below, South Kortright had eight, while Jeffersonville, Liberty and Windham each had seven. All stations except Mohonk Lake had two to five days of single-digit lows.

In 1917, the number of days with lows in the teens or below were Jeffersonville and Roxbury 9, Beerston 8, and Mohonk Lake 4. Only one day of single-digit cold was reported at Beerston and Roxbury. Mohonk Lake had three days of highs in the 60s.

In 1933, the coldest November since 1890 in New York State, stations reporting lows in the teens or below were Roxbury (12), Sharon Springs 2 (13), Jeffersonville (11), and Delhi (8). Roxbury and Delhi recorded four days of single-digit lows including -2F on the 16th at the latter site. At four sites there were still two to three days with highs in the 60s.

In 1936, along with two to three days of highs in the 60s, there were fifteen days of lows in the teens and below at Jeffersonville, twelve at Roxbury, ten at Delhi and Sharon Springs 2 and eight at Mohonk Lake. Jeffersonville and Roxbury had four days of single-digit lows. November 1939 was a cold month with few significant highs and lows. Sites recording days with lows in the teens were Jeffersonville (10), Roxbury (9), Delhi (8), Sharon Springs 2 (7), and Mohonk Lake (2). After more than a decade, November cold returned in 1951. Of a dozen reporting stations, the number of days with lows in the teens and below were; Delhi (15), Ellenville and Walton (13), Sharon Springs 1&2 and Cobleskill (11), Middleburgh (9), Liberty (8), Cairo and Rifton (6). Delhi and Walton had six days with single-digit lows included above. Below zero lows on the 28th were registered at Delhi, Roxbury and Walton. There were still one to four days with highs in the 60s.

In 1967, November cold returned to the Catskills with the number of days with lows in the teens and below as follows: Slide Mountain 14, Delhi 13, Walton 12, Roxbury 11, Downsville Dam and Liberty 9, Deposit 8. Included in the first four above were three days of single-digit lows. One to four days of highs in the 60s were recorded at ten sites.

No highs in the 60s were recorded in November 1976 at eight sites. At Slide Mountain seventeen days were observed with lows in the teens or below, Downsville Dam and Walton had eleven, Deposit had ten, New Paltz had nine and Liberty six. All sites except Mohonk Lake had one day of a single-digit low.

The most recent cold November came in 1986 with one to four days of single-digit lows at eight stations. East Jewett had four and Delhi had 11. East Jewett had 10 days with low temperature marks in the teens or below. There were one or two days at seven sites with highs in the 60s.

In sharp contrast to the above cold Novembers, a hot November, relatively speaking, is one with many days with maxima in the 60s and higher and few with lows in the teens. Twentieth century warmest Novembers had the following characteristics:

Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) and South Kortright in 1902 had ten days with highs in the 60s. Mohonk Lake had eight. Only three and four days had lows in the teens at the former two sites. November 1931 in New York State was the warmest 11th month since 1890 (when record keeping began). The number of days with highs 60 degrees and higher were Roxbury (13), Delhi (12), Mohonk Lake (9) and Jeffersonville (11). On two to four days, thermometers registered highs in the 70s at all four sites with Roxbury and Jeffersonville having four such days. All four stations had highs in the 70s on the 23rd, with 74F at Jeffersonville the hottest. Delhi and Roxbury had three days with lows in the teens or less.

In the warm November of 1946, 70+ highs were registered on the 3rd at Delhi, Middleburgh and Roxbury. The number of days with highs of 60F and higher were Middleburgh (10), Jeffersonville (7), Delhi (5), Mohonk Lake (4), and Roxbury (3). There were one to four days with lows in the teens except for Mohonk Lake that had none.

The outstanding day of November 1948, was the 6th with highs in the 70s at seven locations. The hottest Catskill site that day was Middleburgh with 79F, while the least was Mohonk Lake with 70F. There were seven to ten days with highs in the 60s or greater at seven sites, including one to four days of highs in the 70s. Only one or two days had lows in the teens.

Few or no lows in the teens made November 1963 a warm month as only one to six days at ten sites had highs in the 60s. The 19th at Middleburgh recorded 70F, the warmest Catskill high that month. Deposit with six days had greatest number of 60+ highs.

In 1975, there were two to six days with highs in the 70s at seven of nine stations. New Paltz in the warmer Hudson Valley showed the greatest number. Deposit and Freehold registered 75F on the 7th. The month showed New Paltz with thirteen days with highs of 60 and greater, Deposit with twelve such days, Freehold and Walton with eleven, Liberty and Cobleskill with ten, Mohonk Lake and Downsville Dam with nine, and Slide Mountain not surprisingly with six.

Another hot November was 1979 with few or no lows in the teens and five to eight days at seven sites with highs in the 60s or higher. Deposit and New Paltz showed the greatest number of such days. The only 70-degree marks occurred at Cobleskill and New Paltz. Slide Mountain had only one day with a 60+ high.

Following May and June, November is the third wettest Catskill month. Precipitation can occur either as rain or snow depending on the state of coldness of the month. Of the thirty-six reporting rain gauges, nineteen show average totals for the month of four inches or greater. Stations located in the high peak regions of Ulster and Greene Counties again show the greatest amounts, with four gauges having totals of five inches and over.

At Slide Mountain and Elka Park, the 6.00 and 5.94-inch average for 1961-1990 is the greatest monthly amounts for those sites and the greatest for all Catskill stations. The driest location is at Cobleskill with an monthly average of 3.15 inches. Measurable precipitation normally comes on ten days during the month. The normal heaviest 24-hour amounts can differ widely, from about one inch at Cobleskill to two inches at Elka Park. Extreme 24-hour storm amounts can be well above those, with as much as 6.47 and 7.40 inches coming on November 26, 1950, at Lexington and Manorkill, their wettest day of record. The highly varied topography and elevation are critical elements in the amounts of precipitation.

In November 1963, for example, 14.17 inches fell at Slide Mountain, while Roxbury, only twenty miles away received 3.98 inches.

A dry November can be considered to be a month with a total of less than two inches precipitation. Historically, the years 1899, 1908, 1917, 1922, 1931, 1939, 1964, and 1946 fill this bill. The Esopus and Schoharie watersheds show 1908 to be the driest, with precipitation of about one half inch.

A wet November is one with about twice the normal precipitation. The years 1907, 1927, 1945, 1950, 1969, 1972, and 1977 have that dubious distinction. With three times the normal amount and with four-digit totals at many sites, November 1972 was the wettest.

In general, snowfall is a regular feature of November in the Catskills, with at least one tenth of an inch falling nine out of ten years. Generally, November snows do not last at most Catskill locations, and only persistent cold with repeated snowfalls can guarantee snow depth great enough to keep skiers and snowshoers happy. For most areas below 3000 feet November with a total snowfall of a foot can be expected once every ten years. A foot and a half of November snow is a once in twenty-year event. A depth of two inches during the last week of the month can be expected for six days, a depth of four inches for three days and a depth of six inches for one day. Recent years that have seen total amounts greater than ten inches were 1951, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1980, and 1986. Snowfall totals in 1971 topped all other years with amounts over two feet at Cobleskill, Freehold, Liberty, Slide Mountain and Walton, the latter two sites with three feet.

At Mohonk Lake, there have been seven Novembers with single-day amounts of ten inches and over. Many other Catskill sites reported over ten inches on November 18, 1980 and well over a foot on November 25, 1971 at ten locations.

Catskill Weather TrendsUpdates


A warm Christmas, a cold Easter
A green Christmas, a white Easter
-Old-Time Climatology

THE END of the first week of December brings the earliest sunsets of the year, and gives us, as the winter solstice nears, a greater sense of the predominant darkness of the 24-hour period. Nights are now as long as were the days in June. The latest sunrises do not occur till early January, and so early risers still have another month to go before they can sense a brightening of the morning. The date of the shortest day is an average of the date of the earliest sunset and latest sunrise, which can be seen as southernmost points on the southwestern and southeastern horizons. The solstice marks the shortest number of daylight hours, (about nine hours), but bears no relation to the winter's stormy weather, which abides by its own schedule. Each year we search for markers to determine the onset and severity of the seasonal cold. Did our local lake freeze over earlier this year? What was the first day that the temperature did not rise above freezing? When did the first snowfall come and was it earlier or later than last year? Average temperatures give us ``ball park'' figures but cannot encompass the great variability that is a permanent aspect of our Catskill winter weather.

While astronomical winter begins at the solstice, climatologically, the arrival of December brings a definite end to Autumn. The newly fallen leaf-rustle caused by the brisk November winds is now over as the dull brown leaves now leached of their reds and yellows, become matted down by rain and early snow. December comes with the moan of a chilling wind and the swish of driven sleet or snow.

At eight long-term weather stations in four counties the average daily Catskill December daily temperature is now below freezing, even at the start of the month. The normal daily high temperatures for a few hours after noon are above freezing at the beginning of the month but drop below that mark by the end of the month. Daily low temperatures are normally in the teens by mid-month.

Going from what is normal to what is not normal, an examination of the cold and warm Decembers of the 20th century indicates the range of climate in the Catskills. The key climate markers are the number of days with single-digit minimum temperatures and below, the number of days with below zero (F) minimums, and the number of days with high temperature marks in the 50s and higher. A look at the cold Decembers shows:

In 1903, Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) and South Kortright recorded sixteen days with low temperatures less than ten degrees. The number of below zero minimum days were Walton (7), South Kortright (6), Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) and Windham (4). The coldest day of that December was the 19th, when 13 and 14 below zero were registered at Windham and at the two Delaware County sites noted above. South Kortright recorded a low of -21F that day.

In 1904, the recorded number of single-digit low temperature marks and below was South Kortright (12), Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) (11), Windham (9), Jeffersonville (7), and Mohonk Lake (6). The number of below zero days was; Jeffersonville (6), South Kortright (5), Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) (4), Windham (3), and Mohonk Lake (1). At Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) 17 below zero was registered on the 15th. An incomplete record of 1910, shows lows of below zero on the 16th and 17th at Jeffersonville (-14F), Griffin Corners (Fleischmanns) (-12F), and Liberty and Windham (-5F). Nineteen seventeen had the coldest December to that year since official record keeping began in 1890. Eighteen days of single-digit lows and colder were recorded at Liberty and Roxbury. Beerston had sixteen, Jeffersonville had fifteen and Mohonk Lake had thirteen. There were eight to eleven days with below zero minimums at the above sites except for Mohonk Lake which had only four. Three consecutive "zero days" were recorded at Jeffersonville and Roxbury from the 29th on, when the mercury never rose above the zero mark. Liberty and Mohonk Lake had two such days and Beerston had one. Roxbury had a low of -28F on the 30th. Unofficially December 1917, statewide, is believed to be tied in coldness with 1831 and 1876.

In 1919, Jeffersonville and Walton had eleven days of single-digit lows and below, Roxbury had thirteen and Mohonk Lake had seven such days. There were eight days of below zero minimums at Roxbury, seven at Walton, six at Jeffersonville and two at Mohonk Lake. Over thirty years went by before a similar cold December occurred. December 1955 produced seven days of below zero daily minimums at Middleburgh, five of which were consecutive days. Roxbury and Walton had five days of below zero lows. Delhi had four. Cairo, Ellenville and Mohonk Lake had three. Walton, had seventeen days of single-digit and below lows, Roxbury had thirteen, and Delhi had twelve.

Statewide, December 1958 was the coldest since 1917, with Middleburgh recording 19 days of single-digit lows and below, Liberty and Walton had 18, Roxbury 14, Cobleskill and Delhi 12, Mohonk Lake 11 and Ellenville 10. The coldest Catskill sites that month were Liberty and Walton with twelve and thirteen days of below zero minimums. Walton had five consecutive days of such cold. In 1963, there were nine to sixteen days of single-digit lows at eight Catskill sites, with Slide Mountain showing the greatest number. Six days of below zero lows were registered at Middleburgh and Slide Mountain. Walton recorded a low of -18F on the 31st.

In 1976, about half the days of the month had daily minimums in the single-digits or below. The exceptions were Mohonk Lake with six and New Paltz with twelve. Slide Mountain had twenty-three such days. Eight days of below zero lows were registered at Downsville Dam and Slide Mountain.

In 1980, six sites again had lows of single-digits or below, for half the days of the month. The exceptions were Cairo with twelve days and Mohonk Lake with nine. At Cobleskill, there were twelve days with below zero minimums. Downsville Dam, Slide Mountain, and Walton had ten such days. Four consecutive days of below zero lows were experienced at Liberty, Slide Mountain and Walton. On Christmas Day, low temperatures of about twenty below zero were recorded at Deposit, Downsville Dam, and Walton. In 1985, eight Catskill locations had eight to fourteen days of single-digit lows or below, with Slide Mountain reporting the greatest number. At East Jewett, there were nine days of below zero lows. At that station and at Slide Mountain there were five consecutive days of such cold.

Statewide, December 1989 is believed to be the coldest twelfth month since the 19th century. Eighteen to twenty seven days had minimums of single digits or below at nine Catskill sites, with Slide Mountain recording the greatest number. Delhi had seventeen days of below zero lows,eleven of them consecutively. East Jewett had eight consecutive days of such cold. Delhi registered -25F on the 24th.

Warm Decembers in the Catskills are characterized by fewer than six days of single-digit lows or below and many days of highs in the 50s and hotter. Twentieth century warm Decembers are:

Nineteen eleven, with an incomplete record shows high temperatures in the 60s on the 11th at Jeffersonville, Liberty and Windham, with 65F, the hottest at the first-mentioned site. Nineteen twenty-three, believed to be the hottest December in 60-100 years, had ten days of maximums in the 50s or higher at Jeffersonville, eight days at Walton, seven days at Mohonk Lake and Sharon Springs 2, and five such days at Roxbury. Three of these five sites had no minimums below ten degrees. Thirty years elapsed before the next hot December in 1953, when nine stations reported five to thirteen days with maximum temperatures in the 50s and higher. Ellenville had the greatest number, while Walton had the least. During the month, 60 plus marks were set at Cairo and Rifton. Most stations had three or fewer days with single-digit minimums.

In 1957, six of nine sites recorded high marks of 60F and over on the 20th, with 65F at Middleburgh the hottest. There were three to ten days of highs in the 50s and greater, with Mohonk Lake reporting the least number and Ellenville the greatest. Cairo reported no days with lows less than ten degrees, while Middleburgh had five such days. After a generation, another warm December in 1982 gave the Catskills seven to thirteen days with highs of 50 degrees and over at weather stations in four of the five counties. Slide Mountain had the least number of such days while Walton had the greatest number. On the 6th, maximums reached the mid-60s at five stations. There were four to seven days with single digit lows.

Another warm December in 1984 had seven sites setting records with highs in the mid to upper 60s on the 29th. Nine stations reported three to six days with high marks over 50 degrees. Cairo, Cobleskill, Mohonk Lake, and Walton had the greatest number. There were only one or two days with single-digit lows. In 1990, four to nine days of highs 50F or greater were reported at eight stations. Delhi had the greatest number while Slide Mountain had only three, along with six days of single digit lows, the greatest number that month. On the 24th, highs of 60 to 64F were recorded at seven stations. The most recent hot (relatively speaking) twelfth month came in 1994. While there were relatively few highs above 50F, there were also very few single-digit lows.

Except for eastern Ulster and Greene Counties that lie in the warmer Hudson Valley Climate Division, nearly all December precipitation in the Catskills comes as snow. With the progression of increasing cold during the month and little or no melting, the snow on the ground increases in depth, particularly at elevations over 2000 feet. For the Catskill region as a whole, 12 to 16 inches is the normal total amount expected for December. Statistically, at least 2 to 4 inches can be expected nineteen out of every twenty years. Forty inches can be expected once every twenty years.

However, wide differences in amounts and frequency do occur between the Catskill Park high peak region and the areas of Sullivan and Delaware Counties. Despite the statistical frequency cited above, the successive Decembers of 1969 and 1970 had over forty inches of total snowfall at New Kingston, Walton and Slide Mountain. In fact, within the 50-year period 1945-1995 there have been twenty-three Decembers with a total snowfall of over 20 inches at Walton. The statistically expected number of such months for the entire Catskill region is five. The standout Decembers, with over total snowfalls of three feet at one or more Catskill stations for the last fifty years have been 1966, 1969, 1970, 1981, and 1992. Only three would be expected by statistics.

Snowfall records are scanty for the years prior to 1948, and in the first two decades of the century, reliable data is available only from one or two official stations. Records from Mohonk Lake alone from 1901 through 1914 show that the years 1901, 1902, and 1903 had snowfall totals greater than twenty inches. From 1915 to 1947, at least three snowfall collecting stations were in operation and these show that the years 1917, 1926, 1945, and 1947 had December totals greater than twenty inches. At Mohonk Lake the years 1898, 1928, 1943 and 1954 had no measurable snow in December.

As far as heavy snowfall days, the Mohonk Lake record also provides us with good information for the first half of the 20th century. Ten or more inches on a single day has occurred ten times in this fifty-year period, an average of once every five Decembers. The period since 1950 is similar with eight Decembers of at least ten inches. In the latter part of the 20th century the greatest December single day's snowfall came on Christmas Day, 1966, when 20 inches and greater fell at Parkston, Slide Mountain, Manorkill, Frost Valley, Narrowsburg, and Cobleskill, with the latter station measuring the greatest amount (27 inches).

Wet Decembers do not necessarily coincide with snowy ones, since the warmer the air, the greater the likelihood of heavier precipitation which could come as rain. The wettest 20th-century Decembers, with at least twice the normal precipitation, were 1927, 1948, 1957, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1983. The driest ones, with less than two inches of precipitation were, 1930, 1943, 1958, 1980, 1988 and 1989.

Catskill Weather TrendsUpdates


WHEN WEATHER is the topic of conversation, the question of trends usually comes up. Are global temperatures really rising? Is it wetter or drier now than in the past?

Answers to such questions as they relate to the Catskills require sets of long-term weather records. Within the five-county Catskill region considered in Catskill Weather, there are at most only a dozen or so weather stations that have recorded both temperature and precipitation continuously for more than thirty years. That length of time is necessary to determine adequate normals for temperature and precipitation. For revealing climate trends and periodicities, a much longer record is required. The longest complete climate records in New York State are only 175 years in length.

Other requirements for an analysis of climate trends from a weather station are that the station was not relocated during its period of record, and that the station not be surrounded by buildings and blacktop that can affect temperature and snowfall measurements. The Catskill region weather station that comes closest to meeting these requirements is the one located at Mohonk Lake. Starting in 1891, its continuous 105-year record is the longest of any in the Catskills. A site relocation from Lake Minnewaska, four miles to the southwest occurred in 1896, when the station was moved to its present site a few hundred feet from Mohonk Lodge. Since that time, the immediate area of the temperature station has had only a minimal amount of increased urbanization. The older stations of New York City, West Point, and Albany have, on the other hand, had many site relocations, breaks in the record and urbanization effects, resulting in estimates instead of actual figures from the original site.

The Mohonk Lake site, is technically not located within the Eastern Plateau Climate Division of New York State that includes the western halves of Ulster and Greene Counties and all of Sullivan, Delaware and Schoharie. However, its long-term unspoiled record more than offsets its location nine miles east of the mountainous Catskill Park.

The figures below revealing climate changes, are based on monthly and annual averages for temperature and total annual precipitation for the official U.S. Weather Service Cooperative Station at Mohonk Lake.

The coldest years occurred in the first decade of the 20th century centering about 1906. This was followed by a gradual rising trend to about 1951. Annual temperatures then fell and leveled off in the 1960s and 1970s. Since 1980 there has been a rapid increase with the final years showing the hottest of the entire record.

Winter temperatures show distinct periodicities with four and perhaps five peaks of relative warmth about 1911, 1929, 1952, 1971 and 1988. The five winters about 1952 were the warmest so far this century, while the mid-years of the first decade of the century were the coldest. The coldest winter periods occurred about 1904, 1919, 1943, 1966, and 1979. The average number of years between apparent peaks is 18 years.

Summer temperatures show Mohonk Lake during the 20th century with temperatures gradually rising from about 66 F in the first decade to over 68.5 F in the late 1980s. There appear to be five minor peaks of warmth at about 1897, 1921, 1939, 1952, and 1968, averaging at 18 years between peaks. How much of the gradual rise is due to global climate warming or urbanization of the Mohonk Lodge complex, or both, is not possible to determine.

Annual precipitation shows distinct periodicities in the yearly record at Mohonk Lake since 1891. Noteworthy features of the 20th century are the deep drought of the 1960s followed by the wet decade of the 1970s. Relative wet periods peaked about 1902, 1915, 1937, 1954, 1974 and 1988, for an average of 17 years between wet peaks. Relative dry spells occurred about 1910, 1927, 1944, 1965, and 1983.

The temperature and precipitation figures show that where periodicities are revealed, these appear to average about 18 years between peaks. In nature, the only phenomenon that occurs with that time period is the lunar-nodal cycle which is also related to the solar eclipse cycle. This infers that seasonal temperatures and annual precipitation are variables mediated by lunar orbital movements.

An overall 20th-century warming trend is shown in the annual and summer temperature records. Despite a great awareness of the potential impact of the increase of carbon dioxide and other gases produced by humans, there is, as of this time, still some uncertainty among many climatologists as to the exact cause of this temperature rise.

Catskill Weather Trends

Text copyright © 1996 by Jerome S. Thaler. Website copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Purple Mountain Press, Ltd.
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