What almanac reveals about our December weather

Posted at 9:51 AM, Nov 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-29 18:16:25-05

RICHMOND, Va. — Decembers are widely variable for central Virginia.  Some include a heavy snowfall, like the 15″ that fell in 1908, while others have nice warm spells through the month.  Here is what an average December looks like, based on over 100 years of weather records:


Our normal temperatures drop quite a bit during the course of the month, with our lows dropping below freezing.  Daytime highs in the 40s are typical by month’s end.

While we have been losing daylight ever since summer began in June, we turn that trend around after the winter solstice on December 21.    By the end of the month, we gain a little bit of daylight at the end of the day.  The earliest Richmond sunset is 4:51 p.m., which occurs December 1st through December 12th.  The sunset by December 31st moves to 5:01 p.m.  Sunrises continue to get later, ranging from 7:05 a.m. on December 1st to 7:24 a.m. by the end of the month.  (Our sunrises start getting earlier in mid-January).

A typical December produces 3.26″ of liquid, which includes rain and any melted snow or ice.  A normal December snowfall is approximately two inches.  For the period of 1897-2014, December snowfalls averaged out to 2.2″.  However, some databases used in central Virginia use a period of 1971-2000, where the average was 1.6″….while others use the 1981-2010 period, when the average was 2.1″.

Long range computer models continue to suggest that December will end up warmer than normal.  That does not mean we will not get cold weather, it just means the month as a whole will average out above normal.    Those same models show the potential for above-normal precipitation.