If you're a winter-sports enthusiast, ski area operator or outdoor recreation business owner, the weather outside is truly frightful.

For others, it's delightful, though truly bizarre.

The off-the-charts December "heat wave" that has shattered century-old records for lack of snow is expected to peak on Christmas Eve with highs at a spring-like mid to upper 60s, even in the Berkshires, according to NewsChannel 13 and WAMC meteorologist Paul Caiano.

Despite more seasonable temperatures expected next week, the month is on track to make weather history as the county's warmest December since record-keeping began at Pittsfield Municipal Airport in 1938.

The regional record for the latest measurable snowfall of the season, set on Dec. 24, 1912, at Albany, N.Y., is sure to be broken, National Weather Service climate specialist Ingrid Amberger predicted.

In Pittsfield, the latest first snowfall was on Dec. 12, 1998, based on the past 78 years of statistics.

High-temperature records have been broken locally on four dates so far this month. Thursday's predicted high should easily eclipse the previous record of 54 degrees, set in 2003.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center's outlook through Jan. 5 calls for continuing above-normal temperatures, with only low odds of measurable snow. There's a possibility of mixed snow and rain next Monday night into Tuesday, according to the government agency in Albany.


Average temperatures this month, through Wednesday, are running about 12 degrees above normal at the Pittsfield airport, a departure considered historic by the weather service forecasters. The average late-December temperatures in Berkshire County range from a pre-dawn low of 15 to a mid-afternoon high of 31.

Most scientists blame the wacky weather on El NiƱo, unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures near the equator. This season's especially strong version of the phenomenon causes alterations in the jet stream keeping polar air bottled up in northern Canada while rain and snowstorms track through the Pacific Northwest and eventually over the Great Lakes.

That pattern keeps the Northeast mild, wet but snow-free.

Jiminy Peak's current plans call for limited operations beginning this Saturday from 9 to 4, with no night skiing. The Hancock resort's Mountain Adventure Park will be open the rest of this week and next week, offering the Mountain Coaster, Soaring Eagle, Climbing Wall and Kid Climb. Aerial Adventure Park will be open except for the green course.

Ski Butternut remains closed at least through this Saturday. Other areas such as Bousquet and Otis Ridge are closed until further notice.

Among the Northeast ski areas reported open on Tuesday with limited terrain were Stratton, Bromley, Sugarbush, Okemo, Killington, Smuggler's Notch and Stowe, all in Vermont, as well as Bretton Woods, Wildcat and Loon Mountain in New Hampshire and Whiteface in New York's Adirondacks. A full list is available at onthesnow.com.

By early January, AccuWeather's senior long-range meteorologist Paul Pastelok predicted, a gradual change in the weird weather pattern should develop, resulting in more typical mid-winter cold and occasional snow in the Northeast.

"It may take a couple of weeks for the pattern to set up," Pastelok said. "However, some colder air outbreaks along with stormy weather are possible during weeks two and three of January."

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.

Tale of the thermometer ...

Here are the high-temperature records set at Pittsfield Municipal Airport so far this month, followed by the predicted highs for the rest of December:

Dec. 11: 55 degrees

Dec. 14: 59

Dec. 15: 60

Dec. 18: 50

Dec. 23: 53 degrees

Dec. 24: 66

Dec. 25: 54

Dec. 26: 45

Dec. 27: 51

Dec. 28: 34

Dec. 29: 39

Dec. 30: 40

Dec. 31: 37

Sources: National Weather Service; AccuWeather.com