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Our first frost and freeze aren’t far off

Late October and early November typically feature Montgomery’s first frost
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 11:16 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Believe it or not we have arrived at the point in the year where we must talk about our first frost and freeze in Central Alabama.

Considering how warm we’ve been, it’s probably inconceivable to even think about at this point. However, as we’re all well aware, the weather here changes in the blink of an eye.

The average first frost dates in Alabama.
The average first frost dates in Alabama.(PlantMaps)

So when can we expect to see those glistening, frosty yards in the morning?

Early November -- the 6th, to be exact -- is usually the time when we see our first frosty temperatures of the fall. When we talk frost, we’re looking for temperatures at or below 37 degrees. That’s the temperature at which you can get frost to form on grass, mulch and vehicles.

“But that’s above freezing!”

The first frost in Montgomery occurs between Halloween and mid-November most years.
The first frost in Montgomery occurs between Halloween and mid-November most years.(WSFA 12 News)

Yep, you’re absolutely right! On clear, calm nights, cold, dense air sinks to the ground. That can allow the temperature at or near the ground to reach freezing despite the official temperature at thermometer level being 33-37.

Temperatures in the that range arrive for the first time in late October, early November or mid-November almost every single year in Montgomery. That is true for pretty much all of Alabama for that matter.

As expected, the northern part of the state and the higher elevations are where frost is typically seen first during the fall. Baldwin County and Mobile County don’t usually see their first frost until the end of November.

The average first frost dates in Alabama.
The average first frost dates in Alabama.(WSFA 12 News)

How about those freezing temperatures? A freeze, of course, is defined as a night when low temperatures bottom out at or below 32 degrees. We don’t see temps that low until mid-November most years.

The average date of Montgomery’s first freeze is November 18th. It can happen before or after that date, but that’s the average date you get when looking at every year’s data.

The probability Montgomery sees an overnight low temp of 32 degrees or colder by the dates...
The probability Montgomery sees an overnight low temp of 32 degrees or colder by the dates listed.(WSFA 12 News)

We have had a first freeze as early as late October and as late as January 31st believe it or not. Yes, we’ve had to wait all the way until the end of January to see our first freezing temperature in a winter season!

If you’re not a fan of cold weather, that’s the kind of winter you’re probably hoping for here in 2021-22!

In terms of the number of freezes in a given season, Montgomery typically sees a month’s worth of nights at or below 32 degrees. We’ve recorded as many as 68 freezing nights and as little as two.

Montgomery averages about 30 freezing nights per year.
Montgomery averages about 30 freezing nights per year.(WSFA 12 News)

As you can see, there is quite the range of possibilities when looking at the total number of days we’ll see with low temps at or below freezing in a given year. When you factor in all of the available data between 1872 and 2015, though, you get an average of about 30 days.

Montgomery has been below zero just once in recorded history, in the single digits 22 times and in the teens many times.

Other cold weather factoids and tidbits can be found here, courtesy of the National Weather Service.

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