December Climatology in the Tennessee Valley

Rainfall still ran below average for the month of November across the Tennessee Valley. For regional stats, our closest reporting site is the climate reporting station at the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals. That location measured 2.36 inches of rain for the month of November. While an improvement from the weeks before, that is still just over half of what is normal in our area for the month. That puts our yearly total running at 37.98″, which is over 10 inches below average for the year.

The viewing area as a whole received between 1.5″ and 3″ of rainfall for the month of November. That puts us at only 30% to 60% of the normal rainfall we usually see for the month. While that rain is helpful, it hasn’t done a whole lot to improve drought conditions over the area. The latest drought monitor update from yesterday still has all of our area in Extreme drought conditions, although the Exceptional category area has been scaled back out of northwest Alabama. Still, the rain we have begun seeing the past couple of weeks is slowly but steadily helping to chip away at the drought, and that rain WILL add up over time!

Now, we look ahead as we head into the month of December, and we look at our area’s climatology records to get an overall idea of what the weather “averages” are for this time of year. While the winter solstice waits until a few days before Christmas, December 1st is the start of meteorological winter. Our average daytime high for the month is 55 degrees, with that starting at around 57 for the beginning of the month before making its way down to the lower 50s as we end the year. Our morning lows for the month average generally into the mid 30s. We can have a wide range of temperatures during the month though. Our climate reporting station in Muscle Shoals got as warm as 78 degrees in 2016 and as cold as -5 degrees in 1989! December is also usually one of the wettest months of the year in the Tennessee Valley as the jet stream becomes more active, with our normal monthly precipitation coming in just show of 5.5″. We are also heading into the colder months when we can start to occasionally see significant winter storms. December doesn’t average as our most active snow/ice month, but our climate site in Muscle Shoals set a monthly record of 11.1″ of snow back in December 1963.

With the active jet stream during the colder months, we can sometimes see stormy weather as well. The month of December falls within our area’s prime tornado season that runs between November and May. Over the years, going all the way back into the 1800s and before, the Tennessee Valley has seen several tornadoes during the month of December. A good many of these were of the long-tracked strong to violent variety. Tornadoes during the fall and winter months can be and sometimes are just as intense and just as deadly as the large tornadoes we see from time to time during the heart of the spring. This is not anything new to our area. Tornado records for at least the past 150 years show that this has always been the case! We must stay vigilant and check in on the weather forecast regularly as we head through the cooler active weather months.

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