The 305th Day of the Year
Many of the events of the annual cycle recur year after year in a regular order. A year-to-year record of this order is a record of the rates at which solar energy flows to and through living things. They are the arteries of the land. By tracing their responses to the sun, Phenology may eventually shed some light on that ultimate enigma, the land’s inner workings.
Aldo Leopold, A Phenological Record for Sauk and Dane Counties, Wisconsin, 1935-1945 (1947)
Day’s Length: 10 hours 29 minutes
Average High/Low: 57/38
Average Temperature: 48
Record High: 79 – 1950 and 2016
Record Low: 20 – 1906
The Daily Weather
Record highs for November are almost always set during the first days of the month, and today the chances of an afternoon in 90s are five percent, and for 70s thirty percent. In fact, November 1st brings 70-degree temperatures more often than most October days. Highs in the 60s come 20 percent of the time, in the 50s thirty percent, in the 40s, 30s and 20s five percent each. This is also one of the sunniest days of the month, with a 70 percent chance of clear to partly cloudy skies. Frost occurs on only 15 percent of the mornings, and rain falls half the years.
The Weather in the Week Ahead
The chances of warmth in the 70s drop to just three to five percent on November 4, and odds increase for cold throughout the week ahead. Highs just in the 30s or 40s were relatively rare during the final days of October, but by the 5th of November, they occur 25 percent of the time, and chances rise to over 40 percent by the 10th of the month.
The coolest days in this period are typically the 6th and the 7th, both of which have only about a 15 percent chance of warmth in the 60s. The 3rd ushers in the snow season for this part of the country, flurries or accumulation emerging into the realm of possibility, at least a ten percent possibility per day between that date and spring.
Chances of a thunderstorm virtually disappear until February, but all-day rains increase. The first ten days of November are about twice as rainy as the final ten of October. Chances of rain or snow run at about 40 percent from the 1st through the 5th, then drop to just 15 to 20 percent on the 6th, 7th, and 8th.
The November Outlook
November’s average temperatures fall one degree every 50 hours, finding the middle 30s by the end of the month. Normal highs slip down to the middle 40s and lows dip below 30 by December 1st. With averages plummeting about 14 degrees, around 15 mornings below freezing occur in the next 30 days at average elevations along the 40th Parallel.
There is an average of only one or two days in the 70s, just six in the 60s and only eight in the 50s. That makes just half the month with moderate afternoons, and many of those fall within a week of All Saints Day (November 1st). The coldest days in November, those with better than a 35 percent chance of a high below 40 degrees, are the 12th, 13th, 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 28th, 29th, and 30th. The days with the best chances of highs in the 60s and 70s are usually the 1st through the 4th.
In the entire month of November, five to six completely clear days can be expected, ten or eleven partly cloudy days, and about 13 mostly or completely cloudy ones. Odds are even that most of the warmer days will be cloudy. The sky becomes especially gray after the 14th of the month, the solar pivot time when the Midwest darkens until May, and the percentage of sunshine in an average day drops from 60 percent to 40 percent.
Overcast skies are likely to bring rain 11 out of the next 30 days. Snow or sleet is ordinarily recorded on between one and four occasions before December 1st, the first snow almost always arriving between the 10th and the 20th.
The darkest November days, those with just a 15 to 30 percent chance of sun, are the 15th, the 23rd, and the 28th. The rainiest periods of the month are usually between the 1st and the 5th, the 9th and the 11th, the 15th and the 17th, the 25th through the 29th, each carrying at least a 35 percent chance of precipitation. Of those days, the 5th, 9th, 15th, 20th, 23rd, 26th, and especially the 27th are the wettest of all. Odds for snow are best on the 28th, 29th, and 30th. The driest days for harvest are typically the 8th, the 13th, the 18th, and the 21st, each with only a 15 percent chance of rain or snow.
Eighteen major weather systems cross the United States in an average autumn. Four of those fronts arrived in September, six in October. Seven additional cold waves, most of them accompanied by precipitation, cross the Mississippi in the next 30 days (the final Autumncount front coming on December 3rd). Mild conditions are common until the first weather system arrives.
November 2: As November arrives, frost often moves into the Border States, and the odds increase for cold throughout the week ahead. The 3rd ushers in the snow season for the nation’s midsection, flurries or accumulation becoming at least a ten percent possibility per day between that date and spring. Chances of a thunderstorm usually disappear until February in the Midwest, but all-day rains increase. If this first November front is a day or two late, the 1st through the 3rd or 4th can be some of the mildest days of late autumn.
November 6: This weather system usually brings the coldest days of November’s first week. It also carries Middle Fall into the Border States and the South, Late Fall to the Midwest and southern Plains, and Early Winter to farms along the Canadian border. The days immediately after the November 6th front are usually much more moderate, but precipitation is the rule as the next system approaches. Beginning at this time of month, the percentage of daily sunlight drops quickly, and the wind blows a little harder, rising to its winter levels.
November 11: Sun often follows this front, and the 11th, 12th and 13th are often some of the best days in the first half of the month for harvest. A dramatic increase in the number of freezing predawn temperatures starts with this system, the lows below 32 growing from a frequency average of 40 percent up to 70 percent across the nation’s midsection.
November 16: As this front approaches, expect milder conditions, but an increased chance of rain or snow. Although the November 16th system can be relatively gentle, sometimes it brings highs only in the teens or even 20s as far south as Kentucky. After the front moves through, favorable harvest conditions typically follow: the 18th is one of the drier November days in the Midwest, the 17th in the Plains, the 19th in the East.
November 20: The cycle of the November 20th weather system causes milder conditions before its arrival and increased chances of precipitation. This is a front that carries up to two or more inches of snow across the North four years in a decade. After the system comes through, it can be followed by single digits in the North, and a hard freeze deep into the South.
November 24: This sixth cold front of the month, arriving around the 24th, often brings rain or significant snowfall as it passes through. After the 25th, the percentage of cloudy days almost doubles over the average for the rest of November; even in the South, overcast conditions begin to increase the likelihood for seasonal affective disorders and contribute to complications with harvest. This weather system marks the decline of average highs below 50 degrees and the end to any reasonable chance of a day above 70 throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. Average low temperatures fall below freezing throughout the North. As the final weather system of the month approaches, however, the 26th is sometimes one of the windiest and mildest days in late November.
November 28: The seventh high-pressure system of November generally arrives around the 28th, preceded by rain or snow three years out of four. This is one of the most dangerous weather systems of the month, and precipitation lingers through the cold for the 29th and 30th. Clouds dominate the sky, and travel conditions are typically uncertain. The weather ordinarily moderates around the last day of November, setting the stage for an early December thaw.
The following chart shows the chances that frost will often have occurred by the date indicated. Calculations are based on typical frequency of freezing temperatures at average elevations along the 40th Parallel during the month of October. The data can be adjusted roughly by adding five percent for each 100 miles north or south that Parallel. Local frost histories, of course, offer much greater detail.
Date Chance of Light Frost Chance of Killing Frost
November 1: 99 percent 80 percent
November 10: 90 percent
November 20: 95 percent
November 25: 99 percent
Key to the Nation’s Weather
The typical November temperature, the average of the high of 50 and the low of 35, at median elevations along the 40th Parallel is 42 degrees. Using the following chart based on weather statistics from around the country, one can calculate the approximate temperatures in other locations. For example, with the average of the 40th Parallel as the base of “42,” you can estimate normal temperatures in Portland, Maine by subtracting four degrees from 42 degrees. Or add 20 degrees to find out the likely average (42 + 20 = 62 degrees) in New Orleans during the month.
Fairbanks, Alaska -38
Portland, Maine -4
Des Moines -3
AVERAGE ALONG 40TH PARALLEL 42
St. Louis +4
Washington, D.C. +4
Las Vegas +11
Charleston, SC +17
Los Angeles +19
New Orleans +20
Miami, FL +30
When all the mums are past their best, then major bird migrations will soon be over for the year.
When the yellow witch hazel blooms, gardeners should put in spring bulbs and dormant roses, and mulch perennials. Farmers should plant the final winter wheat and complete the harvest of corn of soybeans
When thimbleweed heads are tufted like cotton, then Late Fall arrives with killing frosts. That’s the time to market goat and sheep cheese, Christmas cacti, dried flowers and grasses, poinsettias, mistletoe and ginseng for the holidays.
When Christmas cacti start to bud, then climbing bittersweet opens in the woods and almost every junco has arrived for winter.
The budding of Christmas cacti is also a marker for planting amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs for mid-December blooms.
When autumn violets end their season beside the woodland paths, then strawberries can be mulched with straw and peonies divided and transplanted.
When the last maple leaves fall, test the field and garden soil, and mow the lawn for the last time. Dig manure into the garden. Plant next year’s sweet peas and spinach. Set garlic cloves for spring.
When all the leaves are down, then fertilize trees and shrubs and remove tops from everbearing raspberries.
As mock orange and forsythia foliage thins, it measures the advance of winter. When all their leaves are down, a killing frost has occurred even in the mildest autumns.
When deer rutting season reaches its peak, then pastures are normally dormant. Only in subtropical Florida do Bermuda and Johnson grass, chenopods and amaranths continue to bloom.
When the poinsettia crop arrives at the market, then the last crickets die in the cold and many farmers are feeding hay to their livestock.
When beech and pear leaves finally fall, then wrap young transplants to protect them against frost cracking.
The transition time to Late Fall brings the close of Mum Season, Autumn Violet Season, Aster Season, Goldenrod Season and Katydid Season. Magnolia Leafdrop Season and Late Sugar Maple Leafdrop Season darken the woodlots. Korean Lilac Leafdrop Season ends in the garden. White Mulberry Leafturn Season and Ginkgo Leafturn Season brighten the canopy for a few days, and then the foliage of those trees shatters overnight. In the greenhouse, Jade Tree Flowering Season complements the gathering tide of Christmas Cactus Flowering Season.
1982: Most of the maple leaves in town fell overnight in the wind and rain. The cherry leaves are down in the backyard. Catalpas long gone. Many ginkgoes still have full foliage, deep gold and losing leaves slowly.
1983: Ginkgoes turning quickly now at my window and on Herman Street and Xenia Avenue. The maples in front of the house have lost two thirds of their leaves.
1985: Cherry leaves in the yard are all still green, cherry the most unpredictable and capricious of our autumn trees.
1986: Along King Street, a few chicory, thyme-leafed speedwell, and Queen Anne’s lace are still flowering; Osage all full yellow green, dogwoods yellow, green, and pink. At the Glen, ailanthus leaves are gone. There are still violets blooming. The pond at the end of Cemetery Street is full of geese.
1987: South Glen, 75 degrees. Cabbage moths still common. Wood ducks migrating down river, blackbirds clucking, kingfishers screaming and racing back and forth above the water. Some robins in the honeysuckles. A large flock of doves by the second fishing hole (one carp caught 11:15 a.m.). The canopy is gone, but the path is still green, dappled with late violets. Ironweed is white for picking, and goldenrod and thimbleweed are pale and bushy like thistledown throughout the undergrowth. Barberries, rose hips, and coralberry shine in the dull fields and hedgerows. The very last asters are in bloom. Grasshoppers still here, crickets loud. With all the trees and shrubs bare, the river reflects the whole blue sky against the last golden leaves along the bank. In town, Bradford pears are deep, rich red. Most Osage gone (those with fruits), while those without are golden. One Osage variety seems immune to frost; the other blackens at the first hard freeze.
1988: Flocks of starlings and geese are flying over almost every day. All ginkgo leaves gone. Lil’s maple 80 percent gone. Oaks still red and brown, full color. My sweet gum tree keeps half its foliage. Cherry and pussy willow still keep most of their leaves. Most maple raking for the year is done, garden full of mulch.
1989: Geese fly over 8:39 a.m. My ginkgo is a third gone.
1990: My ginkgo is full gold today, the complete transformation accomplished since October 29th. Along the way into Yellow Springs on Grinnell, the canopy above the road is gone. A brown ridge of branches, highlighted by red and orange oaks, remains above the valley. My poplar at home thins quickly, maybe a third left. Mums still strong and bright.
1992: The quince falls quickly now, leaves yellow and speckled. Last phase of leaf color beginning: most maples gone, oaks still full, accentuated by scattered remnants. Grass bright green in the rain. The mums in the south garden are lanky but are still at full color; snapdragon foliage holds, a few small-flowered yarrow cut, foliage fresh. Two strawberries lie red in the garden, sweet and firm.
1997: The leaves continue to hold in this latest of possible autumns. Even the maple in front of our house, usually the first to go at the end of the third week in October, has half its leaves, all golden. Around town, the maples are still at their peak, joined now with the red sweet gums and the golden and maroon oaks. Maggie says that the leaves are holding in Madison, Wisconsin, too, that last week there was a snow that held so beautifully to the late foliage.
1998: A few crows at 6:34 a.m. Then a little later, several hundred crows swooped into town and sat in some bare maples on Limestone Street. In the greenhouse today, I found that a caterpillar ate most of one of my tomato plants, left his droppings on a leaf and disappeared.
1999: Lil’s maple starting to lose leaves now. Danielson’s almost done. Barberries, pears, and burning bush full and bright red throughout the village. This afternoon, a white cabbage moth flew by the yellow heart-shaped leaves of the redbud tree.
2003: One cardinal sang at 6:50 this morning. Another cardinal song at 7:20. By 7:30, blackbirds had started their clucking in the back trees. A large flock of blackbirds seen cleaning up a soybean field on the way to Dayton. In the greenhouse, Christmas cacti, red, white, violet, are in full bloom. In the south garden, almost all the Korean lilac leaves have fallen, had turned a deep yellow before they fell. The pink quince foliage is thin, but golden. One of the red mulberry trees along the south border has lost about two thirds of its leaves; the other still has most of its leaves.
2004: The magnolia across the street is almost bare. The pink quince bush has lost about three-fourths of its leaves. Red mulberry trees are losing leaves, are down to half. The white mulberry is turning all at once. Many dogwoods are a rich, deep red throughout town. In the countryside, only the yellow Osage foliage stands out. In the south garden, the soil temperature is 57.
2005: Out in the countryside, leafturn has passed the peak, but full gold remains in many woodlots. I estimate that maybe half of the trees are down. Along High Street, Lil’s and Mrs. Timberlake’s maples are still full, Danielson’s about a fourth gone. At Wilberforce, all the ashes and most of the locusts have fallen. One ginkgo is two-thirds shed, the others still green.
2006: Leafturn is way past its best now along the road to Wilmington. Lil’s tree half down, Timberlake’s almost all down. A small flock of robins in the alley this morning at 8:30. A cardinal was singing when I went outside at 6:40. I’ve finished putting ten yards of mulch around the yard, have cut the grass and mulched some of the leaves into the lawn. The garden is clearly outlined now, neat and ordered for winter and spring, as beautiful as I’ve ever seen it. The quince is full gold. Walking with Bella, I imagined the power of the “thin time,” the space between seasons, the communion of the living and the dead, the call of second spring, the call of winter’s rest.
2007: A cardinal sang while I walked Bella in the dark alley this morning at 6:40. A wren was chattering in the back yard when we got home. Mild weather continues, with frost in the mornings, clear sky, Venus so bright. The oaks are turning now in the Mills Lawn Park.
2009: To Yellow Springs from Fancy Gap, Virginia, full sun, temperatures in the 50s by afternoon: Throughout the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio, Late Fall has arrived, with oaks, some maples and sweet gums offering variety and color to the hills. A few asters seen and sundrops yesterday in the Carolinas. But the news is late autumn above Statesville, NC, all the way to Yellow Springs. Road kills – many young raccoons and opossums, many deer. Only one flock of starlings in the whole 1,500 miles of our trip this past week.
2010: Frost finally wilted the elephant ears last night. More sun and dry today. Sweet gums stay full yellow and bright red. Tree line foliage in town is motley and broken.
2011: Zelkova trees full maroon, Lil’s maple bright gold and shedding, Mrs. Timberlake’s paler and with fewer leaves. Many oaks gone in the park, deep orange and red-orange maples taking their place. Stonecrop added to the front garden, three blackberry bushes to the raised beds. Sweet gum thinning to half. A blue jay fed all day at the back feeder. One sulfur butterfly seen as I drove along the highway north.
2013: In the Phillips Street alley, the canopy opens further as the tree of heaven branches come down. I found the first red winterberry and the first red-orange bittersweet berries pushing out from their blushing hulls. Handfuls of starlings in the bare high branches, robins whinnying west of High Street. Frank’s silver maple with pale shading. The Dayton-Street beech is gilded this morning. The post office Zelcova is deep orange and red-orange. On the way to Jamestown, a small murder of crows feeding on road kill. At Ellis Pond, all the oaks except for the sawtooth oak have suddenly turned brown or red-brown, following the lead of Lil’s maple of several days ago. Several sycamores and tulip trees are mostly bare. Half the sugar maples on the south side of the water have come down; all the bald cypresses have turned, and their brittle needles lie in clumps across the long grass. A few white asters still blooming by the shore.
2014: First flurries this morning, gusty wind, and the white mulberry leaves have started to come down.
2015: Several crickets with long trilling calls were active until about 6:30 this morning. A cardinal sang at 6:50, answered by another far away. Crows came by a little after 7:00. A red-tailed hawk flew crying overhead while I did tai chi on the back porch. I cleared the zinnias and the last tithonias from the north garden, planted the remainder of the daffodils (70 in all) in the circle garden and Jeanie’s redbud garden. When I finished about 10:00, the first grackle I’ve heard or seen in a long time was clucking in the white mulberry tree. And robins were peeping steadily in the honeysuckles all through the morning. Now the Norway maple in Jerry and Lee’s yard, planted relatively recently maybe by Jimmie’s mother, and another Norway in Don’s back yard are rivaling Lil’s maple for the latest on the block to shed.
2016: Sun and near-record high of 79 this afternoon. In the zinnias, a common buckeye (Junonia coenia), a cabbage white, a pale sulphur, small bumblebees and honeybees. Mrs. Timberlake’s maple is full and shedding, the Danielsons’ bare, Don’s two sugar maples anchoring the corner of High and Dayton Streets with dense orange. High leaf color holds throughout the village. The hops are dark and withered, and the grape vines are all pale, winding through the honeysuckles. The maple grove at Ellis Pond is a rich and variegated rusty brown. The tulipo and the dogwoods are deep purple-scarlet, the red maples veined with gold and pink, some silver maples turning palomino. On the way to the Catholic graveyard, near the wetland area, I saw two more sulphurs and four more cabbage whites, an azure, and what appeared to be a hackberry butterfly (Asterocampa celtis). At about 3:15 p.m., a long flock of grackles flew across the north end of the village, traveling northeast to southwest. Vibrant chorus of katydids and crickets this mild evening in the high 60s.
2017: Before flying into the Midwest and cold and steady rain, I walked with Jeni in Portland: Cool and sunny, the sweet gum trees deep red and starting to come down.
2018: A stormy All Saints’ Day, peak leaf color holding throughout town. Even as the early maples came down in the yesterday’s wind. Moya’s maple collapsed overnight, but the bright Dayton Street maples now shine through even stronger. In the greenhouse, the large Christmas cacti have small buds.
2019: The first low in the 20s (27) this morning.
2020: Hard winds with rising barometer and dropping temperatures throughout the day, full moon a day old. At Pearl’s Fen, almost all the canopy is empty, chinquapin oak leaves, maples and sycamores covering the paths. Goldenrod flowers have become gray seed tufts. In the afternoon, the first snow showers crossed the area, and when we drove to Xenia we saw that the ginkgo at the corner of Marshall and Xenia Avenue had collapsed. Lil’s tree has thinned to maybe half, and Mrs. Timberlake’s has joined the Danielsons’ bare.
O angels, blessed in numbers vast,
Protect and guard us on life’s way
Against all evils of the past,
Those yet to come, those of this day.
From Christe, redemptor, omnium, Vigils Hymn for All Saints Day, November 1, in the Ancient Christian Office of the Hours
I grew up surrounded by icons and rosaries and holy practices. Now at the turning of the season, when all the leaves come down and I lose the security and warmth of summer, I am especially aware of my vulnerability, and of the mystery, both for better and for worse, of my belief in spirits.
In times of personal or social stress, I do not forget the guardian angel to whom I always prayed. I used to imagine him on my right side, balancing the bad angel on my left side. I still feel him as a presence, when I think of him at all, still there.
What effect could he have now? Is he superstition purely? Is he a seasonal ghost of the Thin Time between fall and winter, between my childhood and my old age? Or is he real power, a relentless energy, to be conjured through my fear by my will? What could he possibly do for me? What cultural-religious baggage does he slyly carry for me? Do I dismiss him at my peril?
A hymn for the Christian feast of All Saints Day (November 1) invokes all spirit creatures, angels and souls of those who have gone before us, to come to our assistance, asserting that we are not alone, that there is continuity between the living and the dead, strength in their coexistence. This is a time of chill and danger, the tradition says, time to invoke and hold close the allies.