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Springtime in the Berkshires — in mid-January!

That’s what it felt like Friday morning — temperatures around 50, light southerly breezes, “April showers,” a return of a premature mud season on small-town dirt roads.

January has been most unusual — no snow to speak of on the ground since Christmas, other than a measly three-tenths of an inch on Thursday that quickly melted.

The upside: Pleasant weather for outdoor recreation such as dog-walking. Heating bills about 10 percent lower than average this month. Construction projects, large and small, continuing, mostly unhampered by winter weather that isn’t.

The downside: Dicey conditions for skiers and snowboarders. A decline in mid-winter tourism. And, most important, dramatic evidence that a warming climate is drastically impacting the U.S., from devastating wind and rainstorms in California to killer tornadoes in the South, at a time of year when such storms used to be rare.

Temperatures recorded by the National Weather Service at Pittsfield Municipal Airport have been above normal for the past 16 days, often by double digits.

For the month so far, the departure from average is plus 10, a near record-setting warm spell. Snowfall, barely half an inch, compares with a normal 8 inches for the first 13 days of January. Snow for the season totals 20 inches, compared to a historical average of 29 inches, and the only major storm was back on Dec. 11, when 8 inches fell.

This weekend will feel more seasonable, with blustery winds and near-normal temperatures, along with mostly cloudy skies on Saturday and sunshine Sunday and Monday. A warming trend will return for the rest of the week, with some rain possible Tuesday into Wednesday.

A wintry mix is possible on Thursday before a changeover to rain, following a familiar pattern so far this season.

Worth noting: According to historical averages, the coldest weather of the year begins this weekend and continues through the month, with daytime highs of 30 and overnight lows in the mid-teens. It’s also the snowiest period in normal years, but no sign of that in 2023.

The Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for Jan. 20-26 indicates above normal temperatures continuing in western New England, with precipitation slightly above average.

NATIONAL OVERVIEW:

The parade of Pacific storms continues to batter the West with several more rounds of heavy rain and snow over the next two days. Northern California and southern Oregon are in the bullseye this weekend, though flood watches remain in effect for the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. Very heavy snow is forecast for the Sierra, with at least 2 to 3 feet possible by early Sunday.

Temperatures will remain rather chilly across the South this weekend, with 40s inland and 50s along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. Highs in Florida on Saturday will drop into the 50s with lows below freezing possible Sunday morning in the Panhandle and northern Florida Peninsula.

Meanwhile, in the center of the country, it will be unseasonably warm.

What should be the last in the series of significant storms to affect most of California will likely reach the state on Monday with additional heavy rainfall and mountain snow.

By mid- to late-week, central and southern California will turn drier, with rainfall focusing on the Pacific Northwest. This may herald a longer-term drier period over the southwest based on the Climate Predication Center 8- to 14-day outlook.

The overall pattern should support above normal temperatures over much of East and below normal temperatures over the southern two-thirds of the West.

Florida continues to bask in sunshine and spring-like warmth. South Florida will be clear to partly cloudy for the next 7 days, with highs in the 60s this weekend, rising steadily through the 70s into the low 80s by next Friday. The Gulf Coast from Tampa-St. Pete to Naples will be about the same, except for a chance of showers next weekend.

The Carolinas will be partly cloudy with highs in the 60s this weekend and the 70s during the week, with showers possible on Thursday and next Saturday (Jan. 21).

CLIMATE UPDATE:

The year 2022 tied 2016 for the sixth-warmest year in Massachusetts since record-keeping began in 1901.

The report from the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst sounds an alarm about the impact of climate change on the state.

Last summer ranked as Massachusetts’ second-warmest on record, according to the UMass analysis. The state also experienced a warmer spring and fall, with January 2022 as the only month with average temperature below normal.

Michael Rawlins, associate director of the Climate System Research Center and author of the report, said the temperature trend reflects the impact of global warming.

The report also found that the annual total precipitation for Massachusetts was also below the average, with last year’s summer ranked as the 10th-driest on record, based on data from 1901 to 2022.

Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Climate Center ranks last year as the 20th warmest in Massachusetts. The center’s database goes back to 1895.

The Outlook is a look ahead at the weather this weekend and next week, including climate change and its impact on the Berkshires and beyond. Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com

Day by Day . . .

Saturday: Cloudy, windy, near 30, nighttime low in the upper-teens.

Sunday: Sunny, breezy, near 32; clear overnight, around 15.

Monday (M.L. King Day): Sunny, mid-30s; partly cloudy after dark, near 20.

Tuesday: Cloudy, near 40, chance of afternoon rain and snow; mostly cloudy at night, upper-20s.

Wednesday: Mostly cloudy, around 40, 25-30 at night.

Thursday: Wintry mix expected (snow, freezing rain, then rain), high near 40, dropping to near freezing overnight.

Friday: Rain ending, high near 40, nighttime low in the mid-20s.

Saturday (Jan. 21): Partly cloudy, mid-30s, down to the mid-20s overnight.

Sources: National Weather Service and AccuWeather forecasts for Berkshire County.

January is heading for the record books, with temperatures off the charts and snowflakes a rarity. But it’s still 9 weeks until spring, a.k.a. the vernal equinox (March 20, 5:24 p.m.)





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