Gulf of Maine quarterly climate impacts and outlook: June 2016
Gulf of Maine Region, June 2016
Gulf of Maine Significant Events - March-May 2016
Storms frequently tracked through the region during March. Some of the large events are highlighted below.
- March 2-3: Up to 34 cm (15 in.) of snow fell in northern Maine and northern New Brunswick, while the rest of the region saw up to 36 mm (1.40 in.) of rain. Northern Maine accumulated up to 1 cm (0.40 in.) of ice.
- March 5: A nor’easter dropped up to 30 cm (12 in.) of snow in Nova Scotia. Wind gusts of up to 80 km/h (50 mph) led to whiteout conditions.
- March 21: Most of the region saw up to 25 cm (10 in.) of snow. However, the Acadian Peninsula saw up to 48 cm (19 in.) of snow and up to six hours of near zero visibility, resulting in schools being closed for two days.
- March 25-26: Mixed precipitation impacted the region. The greatest snow totals of more than 20 cm (8 in.) were in northeastern New Brunswick. Central parts of the province experienced up to 18 hours of freezing precipitation. Snow and ice turned to rain in Nova Scotia, where up to 30 mm (1.20 in.) of rain fell. Up to 18 cm (7 in.) of snow and up to 0.8 cm (0.3 in.) of ice accumulation were reported in northern Maine, with the rest of the three states generally seeing rain.
- March 28-29: Up to 32 cm (13 in.) of snow fell in northern New Brunswick and northern Maine and up to 65 mm (2.60 in.) of rain fell in the rest of the region.
At the beginning of April, snow on the ground was above normal in northern New Brunswick but below normal in southern New Brunswick.
In early April, two strong cold fronts produced wind gusts up to 124 km/h (77 mph) in New England. The winds caused structural damage, downed trees and powerlines, and left more than 70,000 customers in Massachusetts and Maine without power. Wet snow from April 9 to 10 brought down trees and powerlines in Nova Scotia, leaving more than 16,000 customers without power. Numerous flights were also delayed. A storm from April 11 to 12 dropped up to 78 mm (3.10 in.) of rain on New Brunswick.
Northern Maine and northern New Brunswick saw up to 20 cm (8 in.) of snow in mid-May. Caribou, ME received 11.4 cm (4.5 in.) on the 16th, which was the site’s largest snowfall so late in the season. Cold water temperatures and windy conditions through mid-May led to reduced lobster catches around P.E.I.
Seasonal snowfall (October-May) was near to below normal in New Brunswick, near to above normal in P.E.I., and varied in Nova Scotia. In the three states, seasonal snowfall was below normal, with the largest deficits of more than 2 m (6 ft.) in southwestern Maine. Concord, NH had its fourth least snowy season. With limited snowpack, little spring flooding occurred.
The map of the Gulf of Maine Region, including the eastern half of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the nearby marine areas, highlights significant events that occurred in the spring of 2016. The following highlights are noted:
- Strong winds caused damage and power outages in the three states in early April.
- Temperature swings during spring led to some crop damage in the three states. See the Impacts section for more details.
- Numerous storms impacted the region in March.
- Sea surface temperatures during spring continued to be warmer than normal.
Regional Climate Overview - March-May 2016
Departure from Normal
The map is of temperature departure from normal for the Gulf of Maine region, averaged over March April and May. It shows that temperature departures from normal ranged from 2° C below normal in northern sections of the region to 2° C above normal in southern sections of the region. Conditions were near normal elsewhere in the region. The colder than normal conditions were mainly over northwestern New Brunswick, the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick, and northern Cape Breton Island of Nova Scotia. The warmer than normal conditions were over Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern and central Maine.
Spring temperatures (averaged over March, April, and May) ranged from 2°C (4°F) below normal to 2°C (4°F) above normal (map above). In March, temperatures ranged from 3°C (5°F) below normal to 3°C (5°F) above normal. The coldest areas were in northern New Brunswick, while the warmest areas were in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern Maine. April temperatures ranged from 3°C (5°F) below normal to near normal, with the coldest areas in northwestern Maine and northwestern New Brunswick. In May, temperatures ranged from near normal to 2°C (4°F) above normal for a majority of the region.
Percent of Normal
The map of precipitation as a percent of normal for the Gulf of Maine region totalled over March, April, and May shows that precipitation ranged from 50% of normal to 150% of normal. The legend shows shades of brown marking 25%, 50%, 75% and 90% of normal and shades of green marking 110%, 125%, 150%, 175%, and over 200% of normal. White indicates near normal precipitation, between 90% and 110% of normal.
The driest areas were Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern Maine, with 50% to 75% of normal precipitation. Central and eastern sections of Maine, southern and eastern sections of New Brunswick, and central sections of Nova Scotia were also dry, receiving 75% to 90% of the normal precipitation amounts.
Northwestern New Brunswick, the southwestern tip and the eastern mainland of Nova Scotia, and much of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia were somewhat wetter than normal, receiving 110% to 125% of normal precipitation. Western Cape Breton Island received 125% to 150% of normal precipitation.
Other parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island received near normal precipitation.
Spring precipitation (accumulated from March through May) ranged from 50% to 150% of normal (map above). In March, precipitation ranged from 50% to 200% of normal. The driest areas were in eastern Massachusetts, while the wettest areas were in northern Maine. April precipitation ranged from 25% of normal to near normal in the three states. Precipitation in the Maritimes ranged from 25% of normal in eastern New Brunswick to 150% of normal in northern Nova Scotia. In May, precipitation ranged from 25% of normal in parts of the three states to 150% of normal in northeastern New Brunswick and Cape Breton, NS, with most areas seeing 50% to 110% of normal. Parts of the three states were abnormally dry due to below-normal spring precipitation.
Temperature and precipitation normals based on 1981-2010. Canada and ocean precip data: Canadian Precipitation Analysis U.S. precipitation data: interpolated station data.
Sea Surface Temperature
Departure from Normal
The map shows sea surface temperature anomalies for spring (March to May 2016) in the Gulf of Maine region, including the Gulf of Maine, Bay of Fundy, and the southwestern sections of the Scotian Shelf, south of Nova Scotia. The legend shows colours shading from blue through white to red for colder than normal, near normal, and above normal, with a range from -3° C to +3° C in increments of 1°.
The map for the spring of 2016 shows that sea surface temperatures were warmer than normal over the entire region. More details on the temperature departures in specific locations over the entire map are given in the main text.
Spring sea surface temperature anomalies in the Gulf of Maine were warmer than the spring long-term average over the entire region. Temperatures over coastal areas of eastern Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were 0.5°C (1°F) to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above normal. Off the coast of Massachusetts and western Maine, temperatures were 0.5°C (1°F) above normal. Temperatures were 0.5°C (1°F) to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above normal over deeper basins in the central Gulf of Maine and Scotian Shelf. These warm anomalies continue a region-wide continuous warm surface ocean period that began in September 2015.
Sea surface temperature anomalies based on 1985-2014. Mean SST anomalies from NOAA AVHRR data. Credit: University of Maine School of Marine Sciences and NERACOOS
Regional Impacts - March - May 2016
The map shows the areal extent and amount of snow cover as of April 1, 2016, for the Gulf of Maine Region. The modelled snow water equivalent (SWE) is shown. The map shows snow cover over northeastern New Hampshire, northwestern Maine and northern and central New Brunswick, and parts of Prince Edward Island and northern Nova Scotia. The modelled snow water equivalent (SWE) is shown.
The map shows snow cover over northeastern New Hampshire, northwestern Maine and northern and central New Brunswick, and parts of Prince Edward Island and northern Nova Scotia. The snow water equivalent amount increased from south to north and from lower to higher elevations. Maximum snow water equivalent (SWE) amounts over the Gulf of Maine region were in northern New Brunswick and northwestern Maine, with SWE amounts of up to 36 to 46 cm. The map shows SWE amounts of 10 to 36 cm elsewhere in northern Maine and northern and central New Brunswick. The map shows SWE amounts of trace to 5 cm over parts of Prince Edward Island and parts of northern Nova Scotia.
Modeled snow water equivalent for April 1, 2016. Credit: NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center.
Spring featured summer-like warmth in March and winter-like cold in April. On March 9, high temperatures were up to 14°C (25°F) above normal. Boston, MA and Concord, NH had their warmest temperature so early in the calendar year with a high of 25°C (77°F). Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest lake, had its earliest ice out on record (since 1887) on March 18, which was five days ahead of the previous record (set in 2012) and the first time it occurred on an astronomical winter day. In addition, warm temperatures led to some bears coming out of hibernation up to a month early. Arctic air moved into the region in early April. Boston, Concord, and Portland (ME)’s high temperatures on the 4th ranked as their third all-time coldest for April. Low temperatures on the 5th were up to 14°C (25°F) below normal. Concord, NH had its all-time coldest April temperature on record with a low of -16°C (4°F). According to U.S. Department of Agriculture crop reports, the cold temperatures damaged some apple, raspberry, and blueberry buds.
The map shows modelled bottom ocean temperature change over the Northeast Continental Shelf including the Gulf of Maine Region and adjacent areas, under an atmospheric carbon dioxide doubing experiment.
The map shows that modelled changes are in the range of 1° C to 3° C over parts of the Gulf of Maine region, including near shore and shallower areas and the Bay of Fundy. The map shows that modelled changes are higher (as much as about 5° C) over deeper parts of the Gulf of Maine (including the Northeast Channel) and deeper areas of the shelf south of Nova Scotia. There is a sharp gradient marking the edge of the shelf, with little temperature change beyond the edge.
A study found that the Gulf of Maine waters are “yellowing” by using the Forel-Ule color scale, a color index that indicates the color of the water and helps determine biological activity. An increase in precipitation over the past few decades washed more dissolved organic matter into rivers and increased river discharge, which carried the matter into the Gulf. This organic matter led to reduced water transparency and decreased productivity of phytoplankton, an essential part of the food chain. The effect was most noticeable along Maine’s coast. Precipitation and discharges of organic matter are expected to increase over the next century. A study by Saba et al. (2016) found that a high-resolution global climate model was more accurate than coarse-resolution models at resolving regional circulation patterns and submarine topographic influences on ocean temperature and salinity in the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf (Cape Hatteras, NC to the Gulf of Maine). The carbon dioxide doubling response from this model (bottom left figure) shows that bottom ocean temperature in the Shelf, particularly in the Gulf of Maine, warms at a rate nearly 2-3 times as fast as the coarser models. This enhanced warming is accompanied by an increase in salinity due to circulation changes.
The Government of Canada released a report highlighting climate change impacts, risks and opportunities, case studies, and adaptation approaches along Canada’s marine coasts. The report mentions that median sea level rise by 2100 under a high-emissions scenario is expected to be 80-100 cm (2.6-3.3 ft.) at Saint John, NB; Halifax, NS; and Charlottetown, P.E.I. In addition, tidal range and water level extremes are expected to increase by 5-20 cm (2-8 in.) in the Bay of Fundy due to tidal resonance.
NOAA high-resolution global climate model projection of bottom ocean temperature change under an atmospheric carbon dioxide doubling experiment.
Regional Outlook - Summer 2016
The graph shows the consensus probabilistic ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) Forecast, issued in early June, by the US Climate Prediction Center and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. Bar graphs show the probability (over 3 month intervals) of each kind of ENSO condition (El Nino, neutral, and La Nina). These are shown in red, green, and blue, respectively. The intervals range from the early summer (May-June-July), 2016, to winter (January-February-March), 2017.
The climatological probabilities of these 3 conditions are shown as line graphs.
The bar graphs show that neutral conditions are the most probable at the beginning of the period (at nearly 70%). The probability of neutral conditions decreases over the summer and is below 30% from the August-September-October interval to the end of the period. The probability for La Nina increases over the summer. It becomes the most probable condition (at about 70%) by the July-August-September interval, and it continues to be the most probable condition to the end of the period. The probability for El Nino conditions decreases from about 15% at the beginning of the period to less than 5% during the summer, and continues to be low for the rest of the period.
Based on climatology, the highest probability of neutral conditions is summer (above 50%), then the probability decreases to about 30 % during the winter months. The climatological probabilities of El Nino and La Nina are lower than neutral conditions during the summer months. The probabilities of El Nino or La Nina increase above 30% in the fall, and they exceed the probability of neutral conditions in the winter.
As of early June, El Niño dissipated and ENSO-neutral conditions were present in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Most models predict La Niña conditions will develop during summer, with a 75% chance of La Niña during fall and winter. Currently, forecasters are expecting a weak or borderline moderate La Niña.
Temperature and Precipitation
For June-August, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) are both calling for an increased chance of above-normal temperatures for the Gulf of Maine region.
The CPC is forecasting an increased chance of above-normal precipitation for the three states for June- August. The U.S. Drought Outlook indicates dry conditions are expected to ease in New England. ECCC is forecasting an increased chance of above-normal precipitation in eastern New Brunswick and western P.E.I., with equal chances for the rest of the Maritimes.
Atlantic Hurricane Season
NOAA’s 2016 Atlantic hurricane outlook indicates a near-normal season is most likely. There’s a 70% chance of 10-16 named storms. Of the named storms, 4-8 could become hurricanes, with 1-4 of those becoming major hurricanes. Even though a near-normal season is most likely, there is a chance the season could be above or below normal. Two factors influencing this year’s outlook are the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO) and La Niña.
The AMO is a naturally occurring variability in sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic. There is a cool phase, associated with low hurricane activity, and a warm phase, associated with high hurricane activity. Since 1995, the AMO has been in a warm phase. However, the past three hurricane seasons have been below normal and accompanied by a shift toward the cool phase. There is some uncertainty if this shift is temporary or not. There’s a 70% chance of La Niña conditions during the peak of hurricane season. While La Niña favors a more active hurricane season, its strength and impacts are uncertain. Indications are this season could be more active than the past few.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, with a peak from mid-August to late October. There have already been three named storms: Hurricane Alex in January, Tropical Storm Bonnie in late May, and Tropical Storm Colin in early June.
Gulf of Maine Region Partners
- Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Northeast Regional Climate Center
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Gulf of Maine Research Institute
- State Climatologists
- National Integrated Drought Information System
- Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region
- Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Climate Network
- Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Systems
- University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences
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