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Winter Solstice Marks Beginning of Stormy Season

by on December 21, 2014 8:05 AM

At 6:03 p.m. on Sunday we'll see a turning point for the year with the Winter Solstice.

The sun will hang at its lowest point in the sky making this the shortest day of the year, while sunlight hits the Earth in glancing blows and the winter season officially begins.

Despite the bursts of frigid air that characterized November, Accuweather senior meteorologist Bob Smerbeck says this winter won’t be as brutal as last year, but “an active storm track” is shaping up.

Sunday will continue a trend of mild days, but the first storms will start to roll through the area around Christmas. While a white Christmas is possible, Smerbeck is more accurately dreaming of a wet Christmas.

“The storm starts to develop on Wednesday, Christmas Eve, with mostly rain around State College,” Smerbeck says. “If the storm moves farther east, that would put us in the snow zone, but there will be a large amount of precipitation into Christmas.”

He says the air patterns that shape the weather along the east coast are split into two branches, which will cause a game of temperature tug-of-war throughout winter. However, since one of these branches is warm air and the other is cold, they will also fuel rain and snow throughout the coming months.

“Last winter, once the cold air came in it was really relentless, but we don’t see this year being as harsh,” Smerbeck says. “There will be shots of arctic air, but things will also rebound and bounce back.”

He expects the average temperature for the winter to be one or two degrees below the average of 33.6 degrees, with one or two extra inches of snowfall over the season average of 45.7. Last year’s average temperature was nearly four degrees below the average, with almost five extra inches of snow.

While it’s easy to get caught up on the short days, long nights and cold weather, Doug Wenztel of the Shaver’s Creek environmental center says there’s a bright side as well.

“The winter is a great time to get out and explore the local landscape,” Wenztel says. “You can get the know the handful of songbirds that are still here, or watch the branching patterns of the bare trees.”

Shaver’s Creek will be closed for the season on Sunday, but Wenztel led a small group of people on his annual solstice stroll on Friday. He says that it was a perfect day to watch the flocks of migrating birds and take in the changes in the local plant life. 

“The winter solstice only comes once a year, and people naturally want to mark special occasions in some way,” Wentzel says. “For me personally, the solstice is a perfect excuse to go for a walk in the woods and enjoy the world around me.”

Click HERE to check the latest AccuWeather forecast.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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