Gulf of Maine quarterly climate impacts and outlook: December 2017

Gulf of Maine Region, December 2017

Gulf of Maine significant events: September to November 2017

During autumn, moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions generally improved in New England and New Brunswick but were variable in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. See Impacts section for details.

Unusually warm temperatures of up to 34°C (94°F) set dozens of records from September 23 to 27. Some Maritimes sites were within 2°C (4°F) of their all-time maximum temperature records for September. Many parts of Prince Edward Island were hotter during this period than they were all year, which extended the beach season in the province. Concord, New Hampshire, had its latest-occurring heat wave (three or more consecutive days of at least 32°C [90°F]) in a calendar year. Also, Caribou, Maine, did not record a temperature below 4°C (40°F) until September 29, its latest on record.

Mild maximum and minimum temperatures set many records from October 8 to 10. For instance, Caribou had its warmest October minimum temperature on record on the 8th. From October 19 to 27, a prolonged warm spell with highs up to 25°C (77°F) resulted in new temperature records being reported almost every day in the Maritimes. On October 25, Caribou broke its record for warmest October minimum temperature that was set earlier in the month. In fact, Caribou’s three warmest minimum temperatures for October were all set/tied in 2017.

From October 24 to 26, the region received up to 214 mm (8.42 inches) of rain, with the greatest amounts in New Hampshire, Maine, and western New Brunswick. The heavy rain resulted in flooded roads. Winds up to 90 km/h (56 mph) downed trees and wires, causing power outages. Stormy weather and southerly winds caused problems for migratory birds. Another storm brought up to 132 mm (5.19 in.) of rain and wind gusts up to 129 km/h (80 mph) to the region from October 29 to 30. There were numerous impacts, particularly in New England. See Impacts section for details.

With highs up to 25°C (77°F) on November 3 and 6, many records were set in the Maritimes. Lows down to -11°C (12°F) from November 11 to 13 set record lows.

From November 22 to 23, a strong storm brought heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 146 km/h (91 mph) to the Maritimes, downing trees and causing power outages.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was extremely active, with 17 named storms, 10 of which were hurricanes, and six of those becoming major hurricanes. Four tropical cyclones affected the region in autumn: Tropical Storm Jose brought heavy rain, strong winds, rough surf, flooding, and erosion to New England in mid-September, and remnant moisture from Maria, Nate, and Philippe enhanced rainfall totals during storms in late September and early and late October.

Long description

Map of the Gulf of Maine Region, which comprises the eastern half of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the nearby marine areas, highlighting key significant events that occurred in the autumn of 2017 (September to November 2017). The highlights are as follows:

  • November snowfall was below normal across the region.
  • Parts of the region continued to experience moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions during fall.
  • A storm from October 29 to 30 brought heavy rain and strong winds to the region, easing drought conditions in New England and causing record power outages in Maine.
  • The region experienced record-setting warmth in September and October. The three states had their warmest autumn on record.

Regional climate overview: September to November 2017


Autumn departure from normal

Long description

Map of the Gulf of Maine region showing the mean temperature departure from normal, averaged over September to November 2017. The scale to the right shows positive anomalies (above normal) in shades of red, to plus 5 degrees Celsius, negative anomalies (below normal) in shades of blue, to negative 5 degrees Celsius, and near normal (plus 0.5 Celsius to minus 0.5 Celsius) in white.

The map shows that the autumn departures from normal were +1 degree Celsius or more over the entire region. Much of New Brunswick and Maine were +2 to +3 degrees Celsius above normal. The map shows small areas of Maine with departures of +3 to +4 degrees Celsius.

Autumn temperatures (averaged over September, October, and November) were up to 3°C (5°F) warmer than normal. The three states had their warmest autumn on record, as did Concord. Several Maritimes sites had their warmest or second warmest autumn. The warmth led to increased tick reports in Nova Scotia. September temperatures were up to 4°C (7°F) above normal. The three states, and nine sites, ranked this September among their five warmest on record. October temperatures were up to 5°C (9°F) above normal. The three states had a record warm October, and 13 sites had their warmest or second warmest October. November temperatures ranged from 2°C (4°F) below normal to near normal for most of the region except parts of central and eastern Nova Scotia, which were up to 2°C (4°F) above normal.


Autumn percent of normal

Long description

Map of the Gulf of Maine region showing the total precipitation as a percentage of normal precipitation, accumulated over September to November 2017. Above normal (110% of normal and above) is shown in shades of green, below normal (90% of normal and less) in shades of brown, and near normal (90% to 110% of normal) in white.

The map shows that Nova Scotia and central and eastern sections of Prince Edward Island were the driest overall, with precipitation 50% to 75% of the normal amount. Coastal sections of the New England states and southeastern sections of New Brunswick were also drier than normal with precipitation 75% to 90% of the normal amount. Northwestern parts of New Brunswick and northern parts of Maine were generally wetter than normal, with precipitation 110% to 175% of normal. Others parts of Maritimes and the New England states were generally near normal with smaller pockets of above or below normal precipitation.

Autumn precipitation (accumulated from September–November) ranged from 50%–150% of normal. September precipitation ranged from 25%–110% of normal for most of the region, except in central/eastern Nova Scotia, northern New Brunswick, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which saw up to 175% of normal. In October, most of the Maritimes were much drier than normal, while western New Brunswick and New England were wetter than normal. Precipitation ranged from less than 25% of normal in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to more than 200% of normal in New England. This October was among the five driest at several sites in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, with a few sites being record dry. However, in the three states, this October was among the ten wettest. November precipitation ranged from 25% of normal in Nova Scotia and New England to 175% of normal in northern New Brunswick.

Temperature and precipitation normals based on 1981–2010 data.

Sea surface temperature

Departure from normal

Long description

Map of the Gulf of Maine region marine areas showing the sea surface temperature departure from normal, averaged over September to November 2017. Positive anomalies (above normal) are shown in shades of red, to plus 3 degrees Celsius. Negative anomalies (below normal) are shown in shades of blue, to negative 3 degrees Celsius. Anomalies near 0 degrees Celsius (near-normal temperatures) are shown in white.

The map shows that the entire Gulf of Maine region marine areas had above normal sea surface temperatures. The main text provides more detail.

Autumn sea surface temperature anomalies in the Gulf of Maine region were above the fall long-term average over the entire region, continuing the trend of summer-like ocean temperatures persisting into the fall. These warm anomalies were strongest over the Scotian Shelf (around 2°C [4°F]), especially over the southern Scotian Shelf (greater than 3°C [5°F]). Within the Gulf of Maine, anomalies were 1°–1.5°C (2°–3°F) above the long-term average, with the weakest anomalies in the near coastal waters along the Massachusetts and New Hampshire coasts.

There were 16 right whale deaths in 2017 (12 in Canada and four in the U.S.) out of a population of 450.

Sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies based on 1985–2017. Mean SST anomalies from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA’s) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR)  data. Credit: University of Maine School of Marine Sciences and the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS)

Regional impacts: September to November 2017

Dry conditions

Long description

North American drought monitor map for November 2017 covering New England and the Maritime provinces. The map shows the intensity of abnormally dry or drought conditions in five categories: D0 abnormally dry, D1 drought - moderate, D2 drought - severe, D3 drought - extreme, and D4 drought - exceptional.

The map shows abnormally dry conditions over southeastern New Brunswick, much of Nova Scotia, much of Prince Edward Island, and some coastal sections of Maine. The map shows areas of moderate drought conditions over northern sections of Nova Scotia and parts of Prince Edward Island.

Logos of contributing agencies are shown with the map, including from left to right, top: USDA (US Department of Agriculture), US National Drought Mitigation Center, CONAGUA (Comisión Nacional Del Agua), and from left to right, bottom: USA Department of Commerce, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The November 2017 North American drought monitor

In September, moderate drought and abnormal dryness persisted for much of the region. In October, moderate drought and abnormal dryness lingered or expanded in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and southern New Brunswick. Heavy rain in late October eased moderate drought in New England and western New Brunswick, but abnormally dry conditions remained. In addition, temperatures were above normal in September and October. In November, moderate drought and abnormal dryness expanded in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Moderate drought eased in New Brunswick but abnormal dryness lingered. Dryness also persisted in Maine.

Dry conditions during summer and autumn contributed to decreased honey production in New Brunswick and Maine and reduced potato yields in Prince Edward Island; although, the weather allowed for a faster potato harvest. Fire danger was elevated in Maine and the Maritimes during fall. There were several wildfires, including three fires that caused poor air quality in Fredericton and southern York County, New Brunswick. The number of forest fires in New Brunswick was above the 10-year (2007–2016) average as of October 30. The late October rainstorms eased wildfire concerns in the region.

River flows were below normal in much of the region in September and October. A few waterways in New England and New Brunswick were at record or near-record low flows in mid-October. Groundwater was also below normal in parts of New England. In Maine, there were some reports of shallow wells going dry in October. After the late October rainstorms, river flows returned to normal or above normal for the region, except in Prince Edward Island, and groundwater returned to normal in most of New England.

The photograph shows part of the Saint John River in the foreground, a broad expanse of mixed deciduous and coniferous trees from the river to the horizon in the middle ground of the picture, and forest fire smoke billowing into the sky and spreading from right to left in the background just above the forest.

Above: Forest fire east of Fredericton, New Brunswick, on October 23, 2017. Credit: Rick Fleetwood.

October 29–30 storm

A strong storm, enhanced by remnant moisture from Tropical Storm Philippe, brought high winds and heavy rain to the region in late October. The wind downed trees, which were still in leaf and, in Maine, damaged by drought. The trees took down wires, with more than 1,400 poles snapped in Maine. Over 1 million customers in New England lost power, including more than 400,000 Central Maine Power customers, making it the “largest number of outages in the company’s history.” Some customers in Maine were without power for nearly a week. Heavy rain caused flash flooding in the three states. Due to debris and flood damage, hundreds of roads in New England were closed, some for over a week. In Belfast, Maine, the wind and waves caused several boats to break loose from their moorings. In the Maritimes, more than 10,000 customers lost power and ferry service was disrupted. Dozens of schools were closed across the Gulf of Maine region, with some already having to extend the school year farther into summer.

The photograph shows part of the roof and walls of a house. The roof shingles are torn away in multiple locations.

Above: Roof damage from high winds during the October 29-30 storm in Maine. Credit: Andy Thomas.

Regional Outlook: Winter 2017-18

Temperature and precipitation

As of mid- to late November, the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) temperature outlooks favored above-normal December–February temperatures for the entire region. In New England, the increased chance for warmer-than-normal temperatures is primarily due to long-term climate trends. ECCC was predicting equal chances of below-, near-, or above-normal precipitation for December–February for the Maritimes. CPC was forecasting an increased chance of above-normal precipitation for northern New Hampshire and parts of western and northern Maine, with equal chances elsewhere in New England.

Long description

The map shows the forecast probability of above-normal temperatures, averaged over the winter season from December 2017 to February 2018, over the Maritime Provinces.

The probabilities of above-normal temperatures increase from northwest to southeast. Probabilities of above normal temperatures are 40% to 50% over northwestern New Brunswick, 70% to 90% over Nova Scotia and eastern Prince Edward Island, and 50% to 70% in between.

ECCC temperature map (left) produced on November 30.

CPC temperature map (right) produced on November 16.

La Niña

Long description

Graph of the official probabilistic El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecast, issued in early December by the US Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society.

Bar graphs show the probability over 3 month intervals of each EÑSO condition (El Niño, neutral, and La Niña), with bars in red, green, and blue, respectively. The intervals range from late autumn/early winter months (November 2017 to January 2018) to the following summer/early autumn months (July to September 2018).

The bar graphs show that La Niña conditions are by far the most probable (at over 90%) at the beginning of the period in late fall/early winter. La Niña remains the most probable condition over the winter and early spring.  The probability of La Niña decreases slowly over the spring and summer to reach 25% by the end of the period (July to September). The probability of neutral conditions increases slowly. Neutral conditions are the most probable over the summer months, beginning in the April to June period and continuing to the July to September period at about 50%. The probability of El Niño is very small for the winter and into the spring but then increases slowly to about 25% by the end of the period (July to September).

La Niña conditions were present in the equatorial Pacific Ocean as of mid-December. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a greater than 80% chance that La Niña conditions will continue through winter 2017–18.

La Niña can influence the region’s temperature and precipitation patterns. However, this La Niña is expected to be weak to moderate, so its impacts may be more variable. Also, other patterns of climate variability such as the Arctic Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the Madden-Julian Oscillation may dominate the region’s weather patterns this winter. These patterns are less able to be forecast far in advance compared to La Niña, meaning that it is uncertain how they will affect the upcoming winter season. Long-term climate trends can also play a role. For more information for the Northeast United States, see the Northeast Winter Climate Patterns and Outlook document.

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