"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." - Albert Camus ("Le Malentendu," The Misunderstanding, 1944 play)
After four months of above-normal temperatures, the Big Chill of the past few days came as an abrupt snapback to reality for Berkshire denizens who may have forgotten how chilly mid- to late-September used to be.
On the last weekend of summer, Saturday's predawn low of 33 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport (30 at Harriman & West Airport in North Adams) broke a 30-year record for Sept. 19 and put a crimp in the region's vibrant outdoor dining scene.
Sunday's predawn low, also 33 in Pittsfield, didn't break any records for the date. But it did spell an end to the growing season in most of the county, especially valley locations where cold air sinks and undercuts the temperatures at 1,100 feet above sea level, where the city's airport and its National Weather Service observation station are located.
Not since 1990 have crops withered by this point in September. Bear in mind that last year on Sept. 23, a record-setting high of 85 was set in Pittsfield, and on Sept. 25, 2017, an 80-year record high of 88 was recorded as a three-day hot spell smothered the county.
But, talk about rushing the season! The temperature range over the past several days was typical of late October.
Later this week, daytime highs should rebound to the low- and mid-70s, slightly above the normal range of 45 to 66. And if you want to give a "warm welcome" to autumn, the fall equinox is on Tuesday at 9:31 a.m., to be precise, when daylight will be about 12 hours long everywhere on the globe, give or take several minutes.
It remains abnormally dry in most of Berkshire County. Actually, the U.S. Drought Monitor's weekly report released Thursday, based on observations through Tuesday morning, places Williamstown, North Adams and the northern section of Hancock in the normal category, thanks to some heavy rainstorms earlier this month.
Nearly all of the county is in the pre-drought abnormally dry range, but there's still a southeastern sliver of hill towns in a moderate drought.
"The meteorological summer (June-August) of 2020 was one of the hottest and driest on record in parts of the Northeast," Brad Rippey of the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated in the monitor's weekly summary. "Given the protracted period of heat and dryness, drought continues to expand and intensify in many areas."
Southeastern Massachusetts is in a severe drought, and state officials continue their level 2 drought alert for all regions, reinforcing water-conservation advisories and restrictions already in place in Pittsfield, Adams, Dalton, Lenox and several other Berkshire communities.
"All levels of government are coordinating to address these critical drought conditions," Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said on Thursday, "and it is essential that residents and businesses across the Commonwealth take extra care to conserve water both indoors and outdoors and be mindful of the increased risk of brush and wildland fire when using any fire or smoking materials."
There's not a drop of rain in the National Weather Service outlook through Saturday as a dry dome of high-pressure air dominates the region. But early next week, there's an increasing chance of rain amid lingering uncertainty over whether we'll get a badly needed soaking, or just some scattered light showers.
So far, with just under an inch, September has seen only 40 percent of normal rainfall. For the year, we're at 75 percent of average precipitation.
Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Beta is bearing down on the Texas coast (yes, we're into the Greek alphabet with so many named storms this season) while Hurricane Teddy aims a powerful punch at Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The Pacific Northwest will see several days of rain later this week.
Heading into October, the Climate Prediction Center suggests above-normal temperatures AND rainfall for New England and New York state.
The Outlook is today's look ahead at the week's weather, its impact on the Berkshires and beyond. Clarence Fanto can be reached at email@example.com.