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If it seems like it’s been dark this fall, you might be on to something

The Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder at Blue Hill Observatory didn’t catch many rays in October.John Phelan/Creative Commons Attribution3.0 Unported

If you feel like this past Sunday, with its slate-gray skies and drenching rain, said it all about this autumn, you may be on to something.

It was unusually dark in the month of October after a bright summer, according to the Blue Hill Observatory.

“After several months with much above average sunshine from July to September, October was in fact the second cloudiest (least sunshine) on record at Blue Hill,” Michael J. Iacono, chief scientist at the observatory, said in an e-mail.

The observatory said in an October summary that the month was “very cloudy with only 117.9 hours of bright sunshine, or 36 percent of possible, which was 20 percent less than the long-term average.”


Only one October, since records were first kept at Blue Hill in 1886, was darker. That was 1913, when there were 80.5 hours of bright sunshine, or 24 percent of the possible amount, the observatory said.

The observatory uses a special device, a Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder, to track bright sunshine. The device essentially uses a crystal ball to focus sunlight into a point of light that burns a replaceable paper card in the instrument, Iacono said.

It didn’t help in October that a “bomb cyclone” with record low pressures roared up the coast and left hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts electric customers with power outages.

Iacono said the observatory hasn’t fully processed data for November yet, but so far the month is “closer to or slightly above average sunshine (and cloudiness).”

The National Weather Service in Boston also said skies have been clearer in November than October.

Still, November poses its own inherent problems for the sunshine-starved.

The days are getting shorter, and daylight saving time ends early in the month, so night suddenly arrives earlier.

On Wednesday, the sun will set at 4:14 p.m. after being above the horizon for just nine hours and 25 minutes.


The length of the day has dropped about an hour since the beginning of the month. (It will bottom out in December at nine hours and four minutes.).

Clouds moved in Wednesday after two gloriously sunny days Monday and Tuesday. Showers are expected Wednesday and Thursday morning.

The good news is that sunshine is expected to return Thursday afternoon, Friday, and Saturday. It will be a good Thanksgiving break for those yearning for some rays — before snow and rain arrive for Sunday and Monday.