With Memorial Day weekend here and the promise of summer in the wind, we offer a flurry of weather highlights from 2016.

Will 2017 be as hot, as dry and as extreme as 2016?

The year was certainly one for the record books, being the fourth warmest year on record and the driest in 12 years.

There were short periods of extreme cold in mid-February and mid-December, which can be expected, but a very chilly April with its surprise snowstorm on the 26th will most likely be remembered for years to come.

WCSH Meteorologist Keith Carson recollected, “I thought the winter was particularly interesting in that it was an . . . average snowfall year and a generally mild winter, but we had several late-season snow events, most notably 2.2 inches of snow on April 26th. That’s about a month after the average last one inch of snow in Maine, showing once again that Mother Nature doesn’t care about the calendar. April is often the battleground between spring and winter . . . and winter doesn’t like to lose.”

Carson said two temperatures caught his attention for 2016: “Feb. 15th, when Portland got down to minus-10 degrees, and Aug. 12th, when temperatures in much of Maine soared into the upper 90s, which is highly unusual,” he said. “It was officially 99 degrees in Portland. Both -10 and 99 degrees are numbers Mainers in this region go years without seeing, and they both occurred in 2016.”

Carson noted that residents shouldn’t look for proof of climate change in day-to-day weather or even a year’s worth of data.


“I’m strongly behind the science of climate change, but I’d argue you aren’t going to notice these changes day to day. In fact, that’s part of the misconception of what global warming really means. People point to a late-season snowstorm and say, ‘See, no global warming!’

“It’s important to remember that weather is short term and climate is long term,” he said. “As a professor of mine used to say, ‘Weather is my mood today; climate is my personality.’ The impacts and harm of global warming have been happening slowly on a global scale. A below-average temperature stretch for Maine, or the inverse, means nothing in the whole of the data.”

So here we are, on the cusp of another short, and hopefully glorious, Maine summer. Will the weather cooperate with our much-anticipated plans or will this be the summer that wasn’t? Will our gardens wither from lack of rain or will our seedlings be washed away in a deluge? Or hopefully something in between. At least we can be certain there will be no snow until October . . . right?

For weather enthusiasts, we offer the highlights of 2016 based on data from the National Weather Service in Portland (which has more information than the service in Gray).


2016 began with the proverbial January thaw. Temperatures reached a high of 52 degrees on Jan. 10 and were accompanied by 2 inches of rain that washed away all the snow. Above-normal temperatures caused lakes to have only a thin layer of ice or prevented them from freezing at all. Those of us who have spent many winters in Maine know such a thaw is nothing but a trick. Two days later, 6 inches of new snow with some areas experiencing thunders-snow, ushered in nearly 2 weeks of sub-freezing temperatures and a bit more snow to remind us that it really was, well, January.



50-degree temperatures returned for 4 days straight as we segued into February. As we dared to fantasize about digging out the flip-flops and short-sleeved shirts, the biggest storm of the 2016 winter landed on Feb. 5. Wimpy compared to winters past and certainly just a blip compared to January 2015, it only amounted to 8.8 inches in Portland and was one of the 3 snowstorms of the winter that measured over 6 inches. Bitterly cold arctic air followed on Valentine’s Day, offering 4 straight days of below-zero temperatures and the coldest day of the year: minus 10. It’s been said “the day of love often breaks the back of winter,” but not in 2016.


Periods of warmer weather followed, preventing the snow pack — which never climbed above 8 inches all winter — from building up and staying put. For the first time since 2002, there was no snow cover the first day of March and temps in the 50s returned mid-month. But winter waited to have its way with us yet again on the spring equinox, March 21, when 6 inches of white stuff tumbled out of the sky. Yes, it got cold again, then colder yet.


As a matter of fact, on April 4, it was only 25 degrees, the third coldest April day on record. Although temperatures balanced out over the next two weeks, the end of the month was punctuated with a last-gasp snowstorm on the 26th, the latest snowfall in more than 20 years, followed by the last freeze of the winter on April 30, a few days earlier than normal.



Cool weather and light rain continued through the first couple weeks of May, but by the middle of the month, more seasonal temperatures were back. On May 28, we were graced with our first 80-degree day of 2016, occurring about two weeks later than normal.


Unfortunately, that delightful day was just a tease. After flipping the calendar to June, there were 9 wet days in a row with more than 2 inches of heavy rain drenching us on June 5. June 11 was a ridiculous 46 degrees, causing us to want to stay indoors under our favorite blankets. We were able to dry out after that — a bit too much actually. It began a period of arid days and cool nights that led to drought conditions throughout much of the summer. Maine received 42.12 inches of precipitation for the year; 5.13 inches below normal.


After a warm stretch to accommodate our Independence Day celebrations, on-shore winds brought in cool, damp weather with the temperature reported at a chilly 59 degrees on July 9th, making this the 4th coolest July day on record. This bit of trickery merely ushered in the warmest days of summer. Of the next 30 days, 24 were above 80 degrees; seven of those days saw temps in the 90s.



On Aug. 12, we were panting for relief when the temperature soared to 99, the hottest day in Portland in five years, and the 4th warmest August temperature to ever be recorded in Maine. As a matter of fact, the month was the hottest August on record for the Northeast region.


Warm, dry weather continued through mid-September, causing drought conditions to be a significant concern, according to Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Climate Center Climatologist Jessica Spaccio. “Warm anomalies continued a region-wide consistent warm surface ocean period that began back in September 2015. Warmer ocean temperatures continued into the summer and likely contributed to, among other impacts, a large die-off of puffin chicks on Machias Seal Island, which is home to the largest puffin colony in the Gulf of Maine,” she said.


By September’s end a more typical autumn weather pattern developed. Indian summer days were followed by cold fronts that brought in cooler temperatures, with the first frost arriving on Oct. 15, a week later than normal. Relief from drought conditions arrived on Oct. 21 and 22, when we were pummeled with over 4 inches of rain, the heaviest of the year.



One would have thought autumn 2016 clearly had its footing when a nor’easter on Oct. 28 lashed us with 2 more inches of rain, yet warm weather temporarily returned in mid-November with several days of temperatures in the 60s. This pattern ended on Nov. 21; the following day we witnessed the first snowfall of the season.


The weather blew warm and cold for the next couple of weeks before much colder temperatures arrived in mid-December. Dec. 16, with its bone-chilling high of 9 degrees and a recorded low of minus 3 degrees, was the coldest December day in more than 30 years. A powerful low pressure system moving across the Gulf brought rain and snow on Dec. 29 and 30 — bringing more than 7 inches of heavy snow in just a few hours accompanied by thunder and lightning — and created a memorable finish to 2016.

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