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After a cloudy January, Vermonters soak up the sun

Two men stand near a hole in the ice on a reservoir under a ice bright blue sky
April McCullum
/
Vermont Public
Tom Kanya, left, and Richard Giard go ice fishing in the sun on Indian Brook Reservoir in Essex just before noon on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024.

No, you aren’t mistaken. The sun was a rare sight during the month of January.

According to the National Weather Service in Burlington, this was the cloudiest January on record in the area since 1951. The average cloud cover was 88%, with zero days categorized as “fair.”

Why was it so cloudy?

Matthew Clay, a meteorologist at NWS in Burlington, says the warmer weather we’ve been experiencing this winter may have exacerbated the cloud cover. Because, he says, if you have colder air, you usually have less moisture, too.

“Back in January, we were pretty mild. Looking back at our data, we finished 6.1 degrees above normal for the month. … So, you know, without that real cold arctic air that we're used to seeing in the January month, we just didn't get those drier conditions to favor clear skies,” Clay says.

More from Vermont Public: Why Vermont is getting more heavy, wet snow storms

Clay says NWS also saw southern winds that brought more moisture northwards.

And, with extra moisture comes precipitation.

“Twenty-seven of the 31 days we did report precipitation here at the airport,” Clay says. “So, in order to get precipitation you have to have clouds. So, you know, an active and warmer period led to just more cloud cover than we’re used to for the month of January.”

But the chronic cloudiness isn’t too abnormal. Clay says that, typically, January is the cloudiest month for the area. The least cloudiest times? Late August and early September.

Luckily, February has started out with some clear, sunny days that have coaxed some people in the area out of doors.

But still, this gloomy January may have been a tough one for people struggling with their mental health.

How to cope

Kelly Rohan is a researcher at the University of Vermont who specializes in seasonal affective disorder. She says that most research points to day length as the factor that most correlates to mood in people who have winter depression.

There is some research showing that weather-related factors like cloud cover and rain may lower peoples’ moods in the general population. But those effects are very subtle, Rohan says. “It’s relatively small compared to the effects of day-to-day stressors.”

More from Vermont Edition: Feel like hibernating? The latest science on seasonal affective disorder

If you feel you’re experiencing symptoms of seasonal depression, Rohan says there are some ways to boost your mood.

Most importantly: don’t isolate. Keep up your normal routine and activities.

“Stay engaged, talk to people, do the things that you would normally do — if that's going to the gym, or engaging with clubs or groups — keep doing those things, rather than to go into, kind of, a passive hibernation mode, which breeds more depression and inevitably leads to feeling worse, not better,” Rohan says.

And, if you continue to feel symptoms of depression, reach out to a specialist who can help you find the right treatment.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Zoe McDonald is a digital producer in Vermont Public’s newsroom. Previously, she served as the multimedia news producer for WBHM, central Alabama’s local public radio station. Before she discovered her love for public media, she created content for brands like Insider, Southern Living and Health. She graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Mississippi in 2017. Zoe enjoys reading, drinking tea, trying new recipes and hiking with her dog.