Cumulus clouds over San Francisco Bay, viewed from Berkeley between storms. Credit: David Abercrombie.

Temperatures haven’t hit freezing in Berkeley and Oakland this December, but weeks in the mid-40s have residents bitterly tightening hoodies, muttering over weather apps and questioning (per Californian tradition) whether it’s the coldest winter on the books.

According to the National Weather Service, not really. Oakland and Berkeley haven’t broken any temperature records, with the most recent record of 40.8 degrees in December 2013 recorded at the Oakland Museum of California station (the closest with historical data for Berkeley).

Where to donate winter supplies

But the weather service says average temperatures recorded at the Oakland station are among the lowest in 30 years.

“If we ended the year today, it’s the coldest December for Oakland since 1988,” said Dalton Behringer, NWS meteorologist.

The average temperature for December so far has been 49.3 degrees and the average in 1988 was 48.9. The average of lowest recorded temperature this year was 42.3 degrees — about the eighth coldest on record, according to Behringer.

The coldest-ever temperature recorded locally was 26 degrees Fahrenheit in Dec. 9, 1972. On Dec. 2 this year, the NWS recorded 36 degrees Fahrenheit at the Oakland museum station.

Other recent years have mostly hovered in the average low 50s to the mid to upper 50s.

Another rainstorm coming at the end of this week could bring some warmer temperatures as warmer winds from the south bring moisture along with them.

Temperatures will drop again after the rain and ensuing cold front, but December will likely round out with slightly higher-than-average temperatures, according to the NWS.

Inclement weather shelter and Berkeley winter shelter are open

Low temperatures can feel colder depending on where you are in the East Bay, especially near the water in areas like West Berkeley. Outside without adequate clothing or shelter can also be dangerous, especially if residents have chronic health conditions.

Inclement Weather Shelter Activation, Dec. 20-21.

Call Bay Area Community Services (510) 495-0131 for a referral to a weather shelter

Berkeley’s Winter Shelter opens the first Monday after Thanksgiving annually until April and operates 24/7 at Old City Hall under pandemic rules. It’s at capacity with 19 residents and has been since a week after it opened, according to Dorothy Day House Executive Director Robbi Montoya.

The city is also operating an emergency shelter at the North Berkeley Senior Center when temperatures drop under 45 degrees Fahrenheit or there’s a 50% chance of rain, according to Lisa Warhuus, director for Berkeley’s health, housing and community services.

It has 29 spots, and residents seeking respite are being referred there from other city shelters that are at capacity. It will be open from Tuesday night to early Wednesday morning, with temperatures expected to drop to the low 40s Tuesday night.

“It has been open many nights over the last two to three weeks in this cold, wet weather,” Warhuus said.

Correction: 42.3 degrees Fahrenheit was the average of lowest temperatures this December, not the single lowest temperature.

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...