Wacky Weather? No Worries.

What’s been going on with the weather lately? According to weather experts, nothing much.

Last Saturday’s snowstorm covered Cambridge in more than an inch of snow and temperatures reached a low of 33 degrees Fahrenheit. The very next day, the weather was beautiful, and weather is expected to stay warm for at least another week, with temperatures hitting the high 60s, according to Walter Drag, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.

Drag says this weather, although mercurial, is nothing out of the ordinary.

“The weather right now is weird because it is normal for the weather to be weird,” said Rotch Professor of Atmospheric and Environmental Science Steven C. Wofsy.

Wofsy said, however, that this autumn has been unusually wet, which is why the leaves changed their colors late or not at all.

Right now, autumn is transitioning into winter, accounting for the extremely variable weather, Drag said.

“Winter is trying to make a little intrusion, then it gets booted out by the memory of summer and it can’t hold its own,” Drag said.

Wofsy offered a more technical explanation, noting that cold air is developing to the north of Cambridge while the air in the southern United States is still quite warm.

“There’s a flexible boundary between quite cold and warm air, and that flexible area moves around,” said Wofsy. “Sometimes it produces fairly warm weather, and sometimes it’s going to be very windy and you get storms in there.”

The period of warm weather Cambridge is currently experiencing is commonly called “Indian summer”—a period of abnormally warm weather in late autumn that follows the first frost.

The etymology of the term “Indian Summer” is oft-debated and Wofsy noted the term is also politically incorrect.

One theory says the term “Indian Summer” is related to the term “Indian giver,” which refers to the way the Native Americans sold their wares. They handed their wares out to the settlers, and the settlers assumed they were gifts, and subsequently became unpleasantly surprised when they were expected to pay or give back the gifts. Therefore, an Indian summer is a false summer that is given but then taken back.

Indian summer is “a fairly typical process that occurs every year,” said Drag. “It’s considered folklore, but I’d say anecdotally that it’s definitely a common occurrence.”

However, Kerry A. Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT, disagreed that an Indian summer really exists, saying it is just one of the many temperature fluctuations that happens in New England during the winter season.

“The Indian Summer is more a psychological than meteorological phenomena,” Emanuel said. “I think what’s at heart here is the human predilection for recognizing patterns.”

Like other experts, Emanuel agreed that from tornadoes to blizzards, weather around New England has always been strange.

New England’s great hurricane of 1938 uprooted 750 million trees, killed 620 people, and killed 750,000 chickens, among other casualties, Emanuel said.

He also noted a variety of other peculiarities in Boston’s weather. The world record windspeed of 234 miles per hour was set at Mount Washington, which is about 100 miles from Boston. A tornado that hit Worcester, Mass. in 1953 killed 70 people in one minute. And in the year 1816, there was no summer.

Given New England’s history, a day of snow followed by a day of beach weather just seems normally abnormal.