The prolonged spell of above-normal temperatures that extended the growing season in most of the Berkshires and slashed heating costs will be only a memory by mid-week as November-like chill spreads over the region.
For the first 21 days of October, average temperatures have been 5.7 degrees above normal -- a notable departure from normal, as recorded by the National Weather Service's automated observation station at Pittsfield Municipal Airport. Only three days have been slightly below normal.
The leading edge of much cooler air will move into Western Massachusetts by early Wednesday with a hard frost expected, snuffing out the tail end of the growing season, said forecaster Hugh Johnson at the National Weather Service office in Albany, N.Y.
"It's definitely a change, though nothing dramatically abnormal for late October," he said. But temperatures will average 5 to 10 degrees below normal, a sharp swing from the September-like warmth of this month so far.
Cloudy skies and strong winds will contribute to the big chilldown and there's even a possibility of snow showers overnight this Saturday into Sunday, if not sooner, said Johnson.
Forecasters are keeping a close eye on a developing coastal storm off the Eastern Seaboard, but if current trend persist, it's expected to remain too far out to sea to affect the weather in Berkshire County, according to Johnson.
Instead, a series of minor disturbances will move through, producing lots of clouds and daytime highs only in the 40s starting on Wednesday, with nighttime lows in the upper 20s.
A prolonged, near-ideal foliage season, credited to abundant sunshine and lack of overnight frost, will be winding down, Johnson predicted, as the hard freeze, clouds and winds drop the remaining leaves still clinging to some trees, especially in valleys.
As for the extended outlook, a slow start to wintry conditions is in the cards for the region, forecasters say.
"Winter weather lovers will have to be patient this year, as the start of the season certainly won't pack a punch in terms of cold or snowfall," according to AccuWeather's long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok. Despite this week's cooldown, above-normal temperatures are expected to return and persist well into November.
A similar outlook was issued late last week by the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md.
The three-month forecast beginning Nov. 1 indicates strong odds for milder than normal temperatures in the Northeast, with average rain and snowfall. Even the late-winter outlook, only a first guess at this point, shows a continuation of the relatively mild trend, according to forecaster Jon Gottschalck.
Meanwhile, forecasters remain flummoxed about the mysteriously quiet hurricane season that officially ends on Oct. 31. It's the first year since 1968 with no major hurricanes in the Atlantic region, and only a handful of tropical storms that either fizzled or tracked harmlessly into the open ocean.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
email@example.com or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto