The numbers are finally in for the final month of 2021! Here’s how this past December compared to previous years in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.
It’s no secret. December 2021 was extremely warm in NW Arkansas. Drake Field (the official climate site for Fayetteville, AR) recorded 8 daily record highs in December (December 2, 3, 10, 15, 16, 25, 26, & 28).
Our daily low temperatures were nothing to ignore either! We saw 4 records broken last month for maximum daily low temperature: December 14 (55°F), December 15 (67°F), December 24 (58°F), & December 27 (54°F). In other words, it was the warmest morning low on record for these 4 dates.
With an average daily mean temperature of 51.5°F, Drake Field saw its WARMEST DECEMBER ON RECORD (out of 73 years of available data). In addition to being above the monthly average by nearly 13°F (12.7°F to be exact), December 2021 completely destroyed the previous record for the warmest December in Fayetteville by 5.7°F. The previous record was December 1984 with an average daily mean temperature of 45.8°F.
2021 also brought us Fayetteville’s warmest Christmas on record when temperatures at Drake Field reached 73°F Christmas afternoon.
The highest temperature in a single 24-hour period in Fayetteville was 77°F, occurring four times (December 2, 3, 15, & 26). In total, we saw 11 days when temperatures hit the 70s last month in Northwest Arkansas. The lowest temperature recorded at Drake Field in December was 21°F on Sunday, December 12.
The River Valley didn’t miss out on the warm temperatures either last month, but it was not as historic as Northwest Arkansas. Fort Smith Regional Airport broke only one record daily high last month on Christmas Day.
However, there were several days where we tied the daily record high. December 2 (78°F in 2012), December 15 (79°F in 1948) and December 28 (74°F in 1928) all tied their respective daily record highs. In terms of our daily low temperature, Fort Smith had a record warm low temperature on Wednesday, December 15 when the temperature only fell to 62°F. The previous record was 56°F from 1929.
We hit the 80s in Fort Smith once last month on Friday, December 10 (80°F). This is also the highest temperature recorded at Fort Smith Regional Airport for the month. The lowest temperature recorded was 26°F just a few days later on Sunday, December 26.
Overall, Fort Smith Regional Airport recorded an average daily mean temperature of 54.3°F for December 2021, OVER 11°F ABOVE AVERAGE! However, December 2021 will go down as the 2nd warmest December on record (out of 140 years of available records).
December 1889 recorded an average daily mean temperature of 57.7°F in Fort Smith, beating December 2021 by 3.4°F. It is worth mentioning December 2021 is also only the 2nd time Fort Smith recorded an average daily mean temperature in the 50s for the entire month (after December 1889). 2015 has the 3rd warmest December on record with an average daily mean temperature of 49.3°F.
The precipitation department was a little less eventful in December 2021 for Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley, but we still saw a top 10 December for precipitation in one location!
In Fayetteville, Drake Field recorded a monthly total of 5.36″ of precipitation, which is 2.29″ more than the December average of 3.07″. Most of the rainfall occurred during the 24-hour period of December 17-18 when 3.81″ of rain fell. This is also Drake Field’s only 24-hour period with rainfall of 1.00″ or more for the month.
This is probably not a surprise with the record warm temperatures we had, but no snow was recorded at Drake Field in December 2021. Typically, Fayetteville receives a little more than an inch of snowfall in December (monthly average = 1.1″). Overall, December 2021 will go down as the 9th wettest December on record (out of 73 years).
Fort Smith Regional Airport received a little less rainfall this past month than Fayetteville. The final December total comes in at 4.44″ of precipitation, which is 0.96″ above average (average = 3.48″). The rainiest 24-hour period in Fort Smith was also December 17-18 when the airport received 3.26″ of rain.
Just like Northwest Arkansas, the River Valley was just too warm in December for any snowfall. Usually, Fort Smith receives just over half an inch (0.6″) of snow in December. Overall, December 2021 was the 27th wettest December on record in Fort Smith out of 140 years of available data.