While the thermometer might have hit 80 degrees or higher this past weekend, the first official day of fall began at 3:50 a.m. today.
That is the moment when, according to astrological charts, the sun is directly over the earth’s equator. It’s the point when sunrise to sunset and sunset to sunrise are the same and it is also the point at which, for the next three months, each day will have increasingly more night.
But all is not lost.
This is also the time of nature showing off her palate of colors in deciduous trees - the deep reds of oaks, the yellow, orange and red of maples and the yellow to burgundy of ash trees.
To get the full effect, of the peak of fall foliage there is a good interactive map called 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map, on SmokyMountains.com. According to the map, peak color is just about to cross the Canadian border and head south. Peak color in northwestern New Jersey is about Oct. 15-19.
Fall is also the time of pumpkins and hot cider, spooky Halloweens and crisp days under bright blue skies, perfect for a hike or a bike ride (and Sussex County has lots of hiking and biking trails). The county is also home to many pick-your-own apple orchards and pumpkin patches.
The season also includes a slight hiccup on Nov. 3 as the clocks “fall” back an hour to Eastern Standard Time.
Winter won’t officially arrive until 11:19 p.m. on Dec. 21, but already almanacs claim to have a special formula for long-range predictions.
The Old Farmers Almanac, which has been in the weather-predicting business longer than the National Weather Services, says the coming winter will be “wet and wild” in the northeast. December, on average, will be a lot warmer and a lot drier than normal, with January and February warm as well.
Precipitation for those two months will about normal.
The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center puts northwestern New Jersey in the 40 percent chance of having above normal temperatures for the period of January-March and equal chances of having above, normal and below average precipitation.
Since records began being kept in Sussex County in the late 1880s, the Northeast Regional Climate Center notes that the maximum/minimum mean temperatures for December are 38.7/21.6 degrees Fahrenheit; for January are 34/15.8; and for February, 37.9/17.9.
For those who don’t like human-based forecasts of what the winter will be like, the Old Farmers Almanac has a list of 20 folklore signs of cold winter.
Among them are the woolly bear caterpillar - the narrower the orange band in the middle, the colder the winter; squirrels gathering more nuts than usual; thick hair on the nape of a cow’s neck; ants marching in a line rather than meandering; and, of course, mice chewing furiously to get into your home.