After a brief prelude to autumn over the weekend, summer has returned with a vengeance to the northern Cumberland Plateau region, with the above-average temperatures and scattered showers and thunderstorms that have been so common during this start to fall.
The National Weather Service at Morristown is forecasting high temperatures in the 80s each day through the weekend, with Friday being the hottest day, at 83 degrees.
There's also a daily chance of afternoon thunderstorms, which is more reminiscent of a mid-summer weather pattern than an early-October weather pattern.
The culprit is tropical ridging that is flexing its muscles and impacting weather across the southeastern United States, keeping the early-season intrusions of cold air from Canada further north and helping to pump moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the South.
The normal high temperature for early October in Oneida is in the low 70s. Temperatures this week are running nearly 10 degrees above that. The normal low temperature is in the upper 40s; low temperatures so far this season have been nowhere near that.
Call it climate change or call it a multidecadal climate pattern, but warmer-than-average autumns are becoming more the norm in our region. The average temperature in October 2017 was nearly three degrees above normal; in 2016 it was a whopping seven degrees above normal, with temperatures as high as 88 degrees as late in the month as October 20.
As for those previous Octobers with hot starts: 2007 saw the month end up five degrees above normal, overall, 2005 was slightly below normal, and 1973 was seven degrees above normal.
Early indications are that October 2018 could wind up being on par with 1973 and 2016, though it's too early to tell for sure. The federal Climate Prediction Center is calling for the current pattern to persist through at least the first half of October, with hot weather in the eastern U.S. and cooler-than-average weather across the western U.S. For the final two weeks of the month, the CPC is calling for the cold fronts from the north to begin battering the tropical ridge, but it looks like the ridge will be tough to defeat, which probably means we are headed for a very warm month of October, overall.
Longer term, the CPC is calling for a slight chance of above-average temperatures to persist through November and December. Of course, "above-average" in those months does not mean 80-degree temperatures like we're seeing in early October.
Fall is arriving, as we speak. The sun set at the North Pole last week, and snow cover is beginning to build across the northern latitudes of the continent. It's just a matter of time until fall makes its way south. It may take longer than we'd like, but it'll get here . . . eventually.
In case you're wondering, it isn't likely that any heat records will be broken in Oneida this week. The record high for Tuesday, October 2, is 89, set in 1970. The record for October 3 is 86, set in 2005. The record for October 4 is 90, set in 1973. The record for October 5 is 85, set in 2005. The record for October 6 is 87, set in 2007. The record for October 7 is 86, set in 2007.