October is a time of changing weather

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, October 3, 2017

By Skip Rigney

For many people in the United States, September is the first month of fall. But, for those of us in south Mississippi, October is usually the more complete month of transition out of summer.

Once upon a time many people throughout the country thought of summer as ending on Labor Day. This had much to do with the fact that most schools ended their summer breaks and children returned to school the week of Labor Day.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

For many parts of the U.S., September also coincides with the first strong cold fronts since spring, shorter daylight hours, and leaves beginning to change color. So, for a variety of reasons, Labor Day has been, and remains for many, a convenient holiday to mark the transition from summer to fall.

However, for those of us in south Mississippi and many other parts of the South, September’s weather, especially in the early part of the month, usually seems a lot like a continuation of August.

And, for many years now, schools in our state have started in early August rather than September. So, there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between Labor Day and the transition from summer to fall in our neck of the woods.

Meanwhile, some states up north seem to want to keep the correlation intact. I was surprised to learn that Michigan, Minnesota, and even the quasi-southern state of Virginia, are just some of the states that have laws prohibiting schools from starting before Labor Day.

The logic of school start dates may have once had some connection to the seasons, but, in our air-conditioned and mostly non-agrarian world, I will leave it to more insightful commentators to discover and explain the rationale for today’s school calendars.

South Mississippians usually get a preview or two of seasonal change in the last week or two of September. Oddly, this year, our coolest September temperatures were early in the month between September 7th and 13th when we saw low temperatures in the upper 50s and lower 60s.

Since then our temperatures have been closer to the averages for late August than late September.

Picayune’s daily low temperatures averaged over the years from 1981 to 2010 are 60 degrees for October 1st and 50 degrees on October 31st. Of course, there is no guarantee that this October’s temperatures will be as cool as the averages, but we will almost certainly see our temperatures trending downward over the next several weeks.

However, this week we will continue in a warmer-than-average air mass. Lows are forecast in the upper 60s and highs in the upper 80s. Fortunately for fans of fall, a much cooler air mass is forecast to arrive next Tuesday or Wednesday.

I mentioned in last week’s column that October is typically Picayune’s driest month and that this fall is shaping up to be even drier than normal. The rest of the work week is forecast to align with that dry trend.

The forecast for the weekend is more uncertain. A chance of showers could return Saturday and Sunday depending on whether an area of low pressure forms in the Gulf and, if it does, which direction it heads. If you have outdoor plans for the weekend, check how the forecast probability of rain evolves over the next few days.