Quarterly climate impacts and outlook for the Gulf of Maine Region: June 2019

Gulf of Maine region significant events – March to May 2019

Long description

The image shows the map of the Gulf of Maine region. It highlights significant weather and climate events that occurred in the spring of 2019 (March to May).

April was a record-setting wet month across the region.

The Gulf of Maine region comprises the Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, and the eastern half of Massachusetts, in the United States of America, and the nearby marine areas.

March

From March 3 to 5, an intense storm dropped up to 40 cm (16 in.) of snow on the region, with the greatest snow totals in eastern Massachusetts and Downeast Maine. The highest wind gusts of up to 95 km/h (59 mph) were reported in Nova Scotia, with Les Suêtes winds reaching 167 km/h (104 mph). An aircraft slid off the runway at Halifax Airport in Nova Scotia in the storm. A commuter jet missed the runway when attempting to land during the storm at Presque Isle Airport in Maine.

April

A powerful storm moved through the region from April 3 to 4. The greatest snow totals of up to 30 cm (12 in.) fell in northern Maine and northern and central New Brunswick, while the greatest rain totals of up to 85 mm (3 in.) were reported in Nova Scotia. Wind gusts of up to 110 km/h (68 mph) knocked down trees and wires, leaving more than 36,000 customers without power in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Whiteout conditions led to closed roads, stranded vehicles, and accidents.

From mid- to-late April, a series of storm systems brought milder temperatures and significant rain to the region. In the 11-day period from April 18 to 28, up to 130 mm (5 in.) of rain fell in the Maritimes. The snowpack in New Brunswick and Maine melted rapidly. On April 22, the snow depth in Caribou, ME, finally dropped to a trace, making a record 163 consecutive days with at least 1 inch of snow on the ground from November 10, 2018 through April 21, 2019. The previous record was 155 days from November 17, 2002 through April 20, 2003. The rainfall, snowmelt, and ice jams led to flooding. Preliminary data showed that the St. John River at Ninemile Bridge, ME, had its largest peak streamflow in its 67-year period of record on April 22. Farther downstream, the St. John River's peak water level in Fredericton on April 23 was 8.374 m (27.474 ft.), surpassing 2018's water level of 8.313 m (27.274 ft.) and making it the third highest level on record. See Regional Impacts for more details on the flooding.

This April ranked as the wettest on record at several Maritimes stations, including Fredericton, N.B., and Greenwood, N.S., while Boston, MA, and Concord, NH, had their greatest number of April days with measurable precipitation at 21 days and 19 days, respectively. In fact, for Boston it was the greatest number for any month, with records back to 1872.

May

There were no large storms with significant impacts during May, but several low pressure systems brought up to 230 mm (9.00 in.) of rain to parts of the Maritimes during the second half of May, causing minor flooding. Despite an above-average number of days with measurable precipitation, monthly precipitation totals varied. For example, Boston, MA, had 19 days with measurable precipitation, a record number for May, and 50 spring days with measurable precipitation, tying as the greatest for the season. However, the site received only 96% of normal May precipitation. Caribou had its third snowiest season (October to May) on record.

Regional climate overview: March to May 2019

Precipitation: spring percent of normal

Long description

The map of total precipitation as a percentage of normal precipitation shows most of the region had above-normal or near-normal precipitation totals. Only southern New Hampshire and eastern-most Cape Breton had areas with below-normal amounts.  These are indicated on the map by shades of green, white, and brown, respectively. Areas with generally above-normal precipitation totals included much of Nova Scotia, southern and western New Brunswick, and central sections of Maine. In particular southwestern Nova Scotia and western Maine had up to 150% of the normal amount of precipitation.

Spring precipitation (accumulated from March to May) was near to above normal in most areas but ranged from 75% to 150% of normal.

March was a dry month, with precipitation ranging from 25% of normal to near normal for most areas. However, western Nova Scotia was wetter.

April was very wet, with precipitation ranging from near normal to more than 200% of normal.

May precipitation varied, ranging from 50% of normal in western New Brunswick, southern New Hampshire, and northern Massachusetts to 175% of normal in western Nova Scotia, western Maine, and northern New Hampshire.

U.S. precipitation normals are based on 1981 to 2010 data; Canadian precipitation normals are based on 2002 to 2018 data.

Accumulated precipitation (green line/area) compared to normal (brown line) during April at Caribou, ME.
Long description

The time series graph shows that the accumulated precipitation total amount was close to the normal for the first half of April. After the middle of the month the accumulated precipitation total started to increase substantially due to a number of significant rain events. These brought the total by the end of the month to nearly 125 mm, nearly double the normal amount.

Temperature: spring departure from normal

Long description

The map of spring temperature departure from normal shows that nearly the entire region was colder than normal, averaged over March to May 2019. Much of northern and central New Brunswick, much of Maine, and northern New Hampshire averaging one to 2 degrees below normal. The maps shows only the southern sections of the New England states had near normal temperatures, on average.

The scale to the right defines the map colours. Positive anomalies (above normal) are represented in shades of red, to +5 degrees Celsius and above. Negative anomalies (below normal) are shown in shades of blue, to negative 5 degrees Celsius and below (shades of blue). Near-normal conditions (+0.5 Celsius to −0.5 Celsius) are shown in white.

Spring temperatures (averaged over March, April, and May) were as much as 3°C (5°F) below normal.

March was a cold month, with temperatures ranging from 3°C (5°F) below normal to near normal.

April temperatures varied, ranging from 1°C (2°F) below normal in Maine and much of New Hampshire up to 2°C (4°F) above normal in Massachusetts, with most of the Maritimes near normal.

May temperatures were as much as 4°C (7°F) below normal, with the coldest areas in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. This May ranked among the five coldest on record for several Maritimes sites.

Temperature normals are based on 1981 to 2010 data.

Sea surface temperatures: spring departure from normal

Long description

The map of sea surface temperature departure from normal, averaged over March to May 2019 shows colder-than-normal conditions over much of the area except for an area southwest of Nova Scotia where sea surface temperatures averaged above normal. Details are described in the text.

The scale to the right defines the map colours. Positive anomalies (above normal) are represented in shades of red, to +3 degrees Celsius. Negative anomalies (below normal) are shown in shades of blue, to −3 degrees Celsius. Near-normal conditions (departures near 0 degrees Celsius) are shown in white.

Cold sea surface temperature anomalies that began in winter continued into spring with temperatures 1°C (2°F) below the 30-year average over Scotia Shelf and in the Bay of Fundy and around 0.5°C (1°F) below average in coastal regions of the Gulf of Maine and immediately north of Georges Bank. Elsewhere in the Gulf, anomalies were weak and a warm region [around 0.5°C (1°F)] was present southwest of Nova Scotia.

Sea surface temperature normals are based on 1985 to 2014 data.

Regional impacts – March to May 2019

Spring conditions

While March temperatures were colder than normal, there was below-normal precipitation and, in turn, below-normal snowfall for most of the region. Snow depth at the end of March was little to nonexistent for many areas. However, cold temperatures allowed the deep snowpack already in place in northern and western Maine and northern New Brunswick to linger. In fact, Caribou, ME, had its second highest average snow depth for March at 98.8 cm (38.9 in.). High snowbanks approached power lines in parts of New Brunswick, prompting NB Power to warn people of a risk of electrical shock. The weight of heavy snow caused cracks in the walls at Bathurst Mall, N.B., and caused some roofs to collapse in Maine. Persistent winterlike conditions allowed the ice fishing season to be extended by three weeks in northern Maine and caused a slow start to maple season. Cold water temperatures caused a die-off of 10,000 Atlantic salmon at a fish farm along Nova Scotia's South Shore. Heavy sea ice in the Northumberland Strait and the Cabot Strait impacted shipping.

During April, the active storm track was over the Gulf of Maine region, leading to persistently wet conditions and above-normal monthly precipitation totals. The first half of the month was generally cold and snowy, while the second half of the month was warm and rainy. April snowfall totals varied, with the largest deficits in P.E.I. and Cape Breton, N.S., and the largest surpluses in southwestern New Brunswick and central Nova Scotia. By the end of the month, there was little to no snow cover anywhere except in parts of northern New Brunswick. High winds delayed the start of the spring lobster season by several days in P.E.I. The wet April conditions left fields soggy (PDF), which caused delays for farmers.

Modeled snow depth on April 1 (top panel) and April 30 (bottom panel). Credit: U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Operational Hydrological Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC).

Long description

The map of modelled snow depth for April 1 (top panel) shows that snow still covered most of New Brunswick, extreme western Prince Edward Island, much of Maine except for southern and coastal sections, and northern and central New Hampshire. The snow depth was over 50 cm in many areas, with snow depth over 100 cm in parts of northern New Brunswick, Maine, and New Hampshire. It showed some remnants of snow in the Cobequid Mountains and Cape Breton Highlands of Nova Scotia.

The map for April 30 (bottom panel), shows that many areas that had been snow covered at the beginning of the month were free of snow. Snow depths of 50 cm or more remained in parts of northern and eastern New Brunswick and in the mountains of Maine and New Hampshire.

The scale (on right) shows the colours used to represent snow depths (given in cm and inches), ranging from grey (trace to 5.1 cm snow) to shades of blue then purple then red for increasing depth, with the top of the scale at > 381 cm (> 150 in.).

April was a wet month region-wide, with precipitation up to 200% of normal.
Long description

The map of total precipitation as a percent of the normal total in April shows that April had above-normal precipitation amounts over the whole region. Some areas including central and southern New Brunswick, western and central Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and eastern Maine received up to twice the normal amount of precipitation.

The scale at right shows the colours used to represent the precipitation as a percentage of normal, with shades of green for greater-than-normal amounts, up to 200% or more, white for near-normal amounts (90% to 110%) and shades of brown for less-than-normal amounts.

Planting and fieldwork delays continued in May due to cool temperatures and numerous days with precipitation. Multiple trails, including the Katahdin trails, in Baxter State Park were not expected to open until mid-June due to snow at higher elevations, running water on trails, and high water levels. Similarly, off-highway recreational vehicle trails in parts of New Hampshire opened later than usual. Saturated ground and strong winds caused power outages in Maine. Due to the cool, wet spring, insects were slow to get moving and there could be an increased number of mosquitoes.

Spring flooding

Rainfall, snowmelt, and ice jams caused flooding in the region from mid-April to early May. Several gauges along the St. John River in New Brunswick had near-record water levels, resulting in significant flooding. Houses, businesses, and parking lots were inundated, and hundreds of residents evacuated. More than 145 roads were closed, including a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway, and ferries were suspended. Schools and offices were closed. Ice struck five power poles, snapping them and causing a power outage. The river at many locations remained near or above flood stage for about 2 weeks. High water levels, large waves, and ice also caused damage to homes and roads around Grand Lake, N.B.. Financial assistance is available to New Brunswick residents affected by flooding. Minor to moderate flooding occurred in Maine and New Hampshire, with high water closing roads and bridges and damaging several homes. Preliminary data from the U.S. Geological Survey showed that peak streamflow ranked among the 10 largest on record (PDF) at 15 sites in Maine and four sites in New Hampshire.

Flooding in Fredericton, N.B., on April 23, 2019. Credit: Rick Fleetwood.
Long description

The photo shows the Fredericton waterfront along the Saint John River, with water covering park land, a walking trail, and a main road, with only the median strip above water. Water surrounds a small lighthouse in the background. Chunks of river ice are visible in the flooded areas of park land.

An ice jam near Washburn, ME, on April 19, 2019. Credit: U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) Caribou.
Long description

The photograph shows a wide expanse of jumbled pieces of ice, with some bare ground in the foreground and some trees on the far shore in the distant background.

Climate change in Canada

Two Canadian climate change reports were recently released. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans report found climate change is leading to declines in some species of sea life but increases in others due to warmer sea temperatures. Another report led by Environment and Climate Change Canada found that "The effects of widespread warming are evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the future."

Regional outlook: summer 2019

Temperature and precipitation

U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC) temperature outlook produced on May 16 (left); Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) temperature outlook produced on May 31 (right).
Long description

The map of the June to August temperature outlook for New England (left) shows the entire area with a 40 to 60% probability of above-normal temperatures, with the higher probabilities over southern sections.

The map of the June to August temperature outlook for the Maritimes (right) shows that eastern sections of Nova Scotia have a 40 to 50% chance of above-normal temperatures. The rest of the Maritimes shows no signal (equal chances of above-, near-, or above-normal temperatures).

For March to May, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) favor above-normal temperatures for New England, New Brunswick, the western half of P.E.I., and most of Nova Scotia, with equal chances of below-, near-, or above-normal temperatures for the eastern half of P.E.I. and Cape Breton.

ECCC favors above-normal precipitation for the Maritimes, except in eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, where equal chances were predicted. CPC calls for equal chances for New England.

Atlantic hurricane season

The NOAA's 2019 Atlantic hurricane season outlook says a near-normal season is most likely, with “a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms [winds of 63+ km/h (39+ mph)], of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes [winds of 119+ km/h (74+ mph)], including 2 to 4 major hurricanes [Category 3, 4, or 5; winds of 179 km/h (111+ mph)].” The season started early with the short-lived Subtropical Storm Andrea in May. The season runs from June 1 to November 30, peaking from mid-August to late October.

Quantity 2019 season outlook Average season
Number of named storms 9 to 15 12
Number of hurricanes 4 to 8 6
Number of major hurricanes 2 to 4 3

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

Long description

Early-June 2019 official probabilistic El Niño Southern Oscillation (EÑSO) forecast, issued by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society.

The forecast period is about a year. Probabilities are given in 3-month seasonal intervals. Each interval overlaps by two months. The first 3-month interval is May-June-July (2019). The middle of the period is represented by the autumn months of September-October-November. The last 3-month interval is January-February-March (2020).

The graph of forecast probabilities (vertical bars) shows that El Niño (red bars) is the most probable condition for the entire period. The forecast probabilities for El Niño are 80% near the beginning of the period and remain above 50% throughout the period. The probability of neutral conditions (grey bars) is around 30 to 40% for most of the period except near the beginning when it is about 20%. The probability of La Niña conditions (blue bars) is very low throughout, gradually reaching just 10% in the later part of the period.

The climatological probabilities (lines) indicate that the neutral EÑSO condition (grey line) is climatologically more probable for the first half of the period, starting at about 55% then slowly dropping in the autumn to about 30%. The climatological probabilities of the El Niño (red line) and La Niño (blue line) conditions are similar, starting at around 20%, then gradually increasing to 30 to 40% by the latter half of the period.

The EÑSO state is based on NINO3.4 Sea surface temperature (SST) Anomaly. The neutral EÑSO is defined as −0.5 °C to 0.5 °C.

Weak El Niño conditions formed in January and persisted through May. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center indicates there is a 66% chance that the weak El Niño will continue through summer and a 50% to 55% chance it will continue through fall and winter.

Contacts

Environment and Climate Change Canada
Email : ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Northeast Regional Climate Center
Name: Ellen Mecray
Email: Ellen.L.Mecray@noaa.gov

Name: Samantha Borisoff
Email: sgh58@cornell.ecu

Gulf of Maine partners

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Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook Reports – online at Canada.ca

National integrated drought information system reports

#regionalclimateoutlooks

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