Quarterly climate impacts and outlook for the Gulf of Maine region: March 2019
Gulf of Maine Region Significant Events – December 2018 to February 2019
Map of the Gulf of Maine Region, which comprises the Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, in Canada, and 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. The map highlights some of the significant events that occurred in the winter of 2019 (December 2018 to February 2019). The highlighted events are as follows:
- Winter featured frequent storms, with many of them bringing mixed precipitation.
From December 17 to 18, up to 43 cm (17 in.) of snow and strong winds disrupted travel and closed schools in northern Maine and the Maritimes. Part of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park was closed for four days due to snowdrifts as high as 3.6 m (12 ft.). A low pressure system passing to the west brought a southerly flow of warm air to the region from December 21 to 23. Several daily record temperatures were set as max temperatures were up to 18°C (65°F). Ice jams, snow melt, and up to 100 mm (4 in.) of rain caused waterways to rise, leading to some flooding. Wind gusts of up to 103 km/h (64 mph) brought down trees and wires in eastern Massachusetts.
A series of storms, including several that produced freezing rain, moved through the region in January. A complex storm brought up to 40 mm (1.50 in.) of rain and up to 50 cm (20 in.) snow to the region from January 8 to 10. Peak wind gusts reached 100 km/h (62 mph). Schools in the Maritimes were closed for up to two days, and there were transportation delays at airports and ferry terminals. From January 19 to 21, a major winter storm brought up to 55 cm (22 in.) of snow, up to 102 mm (4 in.) of rain, and up to 8 mm (0.3 in.) of ice accumulation to the region. Wind gusts of up to 100 km/h (62 mph) accompanied the storm. Flooding and power outages were reported. Another powerful storm from January 23 to 24 brought up to 80 mm (3 in.) of rain and wind gusts of up to 120 km/h (75 mph) to much of the region. Northern New Brunswick experienced up to 14 hours of freezing rain. The storm resulted in localized flooding and power outages. Disaster assistance was available in New Brunswick, where there was an estimated $9.5 million in damage. The persistent storminess caused Caribou, ME, to have its snowiest and wettest January on record.
Several storms moved through the region in February. From February 12 to 13, a storm brought up to 40 cm (16 in.) of snow, with the greatest totals in Maine and New Brunswick. Wind gusts were up to 100 km/h (62 mph) for most areas. There were school and business closures, as well as transportation disruptions. A powerful storm brought high winds and mixed precipitation, including up to 40 cm (16 in.) snow, to the region from February 24 to 27. Wind gusts were generally up to 110 km/h (68 mph). Les Suêtes winds reached 169 km/h (105 mph) at Grand Etang, N.S. Mount Washington, NH, had its strongest February wind gust on record at 275 km/h (171 mph). Widespread blowing and drifting snow caused major travel disruptions in Maine, New Brunswick, and P.E.I. Drifts as high as 3 m (10 ft) created impassable roads, and whiteout conditions led to vehicle accidents. Schools were closed for up to five days. The winds also damaged buildings, downed trees and wires, led to power outages, caused an ice-coated communications tower atop Sugarloaf Mountain, ME, to bend in half, and created a wall of ice on the eastern shore of Bras D'Or Lake in Cape Breton, N.S.
Regional Climate Overview: December 2018 to February 2019
Temperature: Winter Departure from Normal
Map of the Gulf of Maine region showing the mean temperature departure from normal, averaged over December 2018 to February 2019. 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 of winter temperature departure from normal (averaged over December to February) shows colder than normal or near normal conditions over most of the Gulf of Maine Region except the southern-most sections, including Cape Cod, which were warmer than normal.
Winter temperatures (averaged over December, January, and February) ranged from 2°C (4°F) below normal to 2°C (4°F) above normal.
December temperatures ranged from 3°C (5°F) below normal to near normal, with the coldest areas in Nova Scotia. However, southern New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts were up to 2°C (4°F) warmer than normal.
January temperatures ranged from 1°C (2°F) below normal in western Maine and parts of New Hampshire to 2°C (4°F) above normal in eastern Maine, Nova Scotia, and eastern P.E.I.
February temperatures ranged from 3°C (5°F) below normal to near normal, with Cape Breton, N.S. being the coldest spot. However, eastern Massachusetts was up to 1°C (2°F) warmer than normal. Temperature normals are based on 1981 to 2010 data.
The time series diagram of Daily Average and Normal Temperatures for Caribou Maine over the months of December to February shows repeated dramatic temperature swings between above normal and below normal over the course of the 3 months. Periods of below-normal temperatures are shaded blue and periods of above-normal temperatures are shaded red.
Daily average and normal temperatures at Caribou, Maine, Dec. 1, 2018 to Feb. 28, 2019. There were several dramatic temperatures swings between above normal (shaded red) and below normal (shaded blue) during winter. Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC).
Precipitation: Winter Percent of Normal
Map of the Gulf of Maine region showing the total precipitation as a percentage of normal precipitation, accumulated over December 2018 to February 2019. 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 New Brunswick, the New England states, and western Prince Edward Island with above-normal precipitation. Amounts over most of New Brunswick were between 125 and 150% of normal. Most of Nova Scotia and the rest of Prince Edward Island had near-normal precipitation, while some sections especially in southern Nova Scotia and eastern Cape Breton were drier than normal (receiving 75% to 90% of the normal amount of precipitation).
Winter precipitation (accumulated from December to February) generally ranged from 75% to 150% of normal.
December precipitation ranged from 50% of normal to near normal, except in northern Maine and western New Brunswick, which received up to 175% of normal.
January precipitation ranged from near normal to more than 200% of normal, except in parts of Cape Breton, N.S., which was drier.
February precipitation ranged from 50% to 150% of normal, with the driest areas in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. and the wettest areas in parts of New England.
U.S. precipitation normals are based on 1981 to 2010 data; Canadian precipitation normals are based on 2002 to 2018.
Sea Surface Temperatures: Departure from Normal
Map of the Gulf of Maine Region marine areas showing the sea surface temperature departure from normal, averaged over December 2018 to February 2019. Positive anomalies (above normal) are shown in shades of red, to plus 5 degrees Celsius. Negative anomalies (below normal) are shown in shades of blue, to negative 5 degrees Celsius. Anomalies near 0 degrees Celsius (near-normal temperatures) are shown in white.
The map of the sea-surface-temperature departure from normal (averaged over December to February) shows colder-than-normal conditions over the eastern Gulf of Maine including the Bay of Fundy and waters around the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. The temperature anomalies were about minus 1 Celsius in these areas. The western Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank regions were at or slightly above normal, with temperature anomalies of up to about 0.5 Celsius.
Winter sea surface temperature anomalies were colder than normal over the eastern Gulf of Maine [−0.5 to −1°C (−1 to −2°F)] and Scotian Shelf, where anomalies over −1°C (−2°F) were present. The western Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank regions were at normal, or slightly warmer [around 0.5°C (1°F)]. The cold surface temperatures were mostly due to cold December and January values, with February being near normal. Cold anomalies of similar strength, coverage, and duration were last seen in 2009. SST normals are based on 1985 to 2014 data.
Regional Impacts: December 2018 to February 2019
The map of winter total snowfall as a percent of normal shows a transition from above-normal snowfall amounts in the northern sections of the Gulf of Maine region (in green) to below-normal snowfall in the south and east (in brown).
- In particular, central and northern New Brunswick and northern Maine had up to 150% of the normal amount of snowfall.
- Northern New Hampshire, central Maine, parts of New Brunswick especially along the Bay of Fundy, and western Prince Edward Island had near-normal amounts.
- Nova Scotia, eastern Prince Edward Island, and the southern sections of New England had below-normal snowfall, as little as 50% of normal in southern Nova Scotia and 25% of normal in Massachusetts.
Colder-than-normal December temperatures contributed to above-normal sea ice concentration along the eastern shore of New Brunswick by month's end, causing the Canadian Coast Guard to start ice-breaking operations earlier than usual in some areas. Conditions allowed ice fishing to start early in New Brunswick. December snowfall was below normal for most of the region, except in western New Brunswick, Cape Breton, N.S., and P.E.I.
January featured dramatic temperature swings with the approach then passage of each storm. The storms produced a variety of precipitation types. For instance, northern and central New Brunswick had both more rain and more snow than normal in January. Snowfall was also near to above normal in Maine and much of New Hampshire. It was the snowiest January on record for Bas Caraquet, N.B., and Caribou, ME. In fact, January 2019 was 0.25 cm (0.1 in.) short of tying December 1972 as Caribou's all-time snowiest month on record. Snow depths at some New Brunswick sites were more than double normal at the end of the month. Snowfall was near to below normal in Massachusetts, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, and southern New Brunswick where temperatures were milder. For example, most sites in southern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had more days above freezing than normal. Little snow cover and high winds in P.E.I. caused topsoil to blow off fields, with crews having to remove soil from the road in Bedeque.
In February, temperatures were generally warmer than normal the first half of the month and colder than normal the second half. Much of the region saw near- to below-normal snowfall and below-normal snow depth. However, northern Maine and northern and central New Brunswick once again saw above-normal snowfall and well-above-normal snow depth. For instance, on February 25, Bas Caraquet, N.B. had a snow depth of 148 cm (58 in.) and Caribou, ME, had a snow depth of 114 cm (45 in.). These ranked among the five highest snow depths for February at both sites.
Caribou had its snowiest October to February period on record, amassing 373 cm (147 in.) of snow. The active winter strained snow removal budgets in Maine but was good for winter activities. In P.E.I., road crews had to use more sand than usual and there was increased demand for food banks and heating fuel. The conditions created heavy ice buildup around P.E.I., which caused problems for oyster growers and ferry service. While the wet conditions eased abnormal dryness in northern Maine, drought and abnormal dryness lingered in parts of northern New Brunswick due to long-term deficits. Boston, MA, Concord, NH, and Portland, ME, had several extra days during winter with temperatures at or above freezing, which is consistent with the trend of milder winters in the Northeast U.S.
The photo of snowdrifts as high as 3 m in Caribou, Maine, shows a large snowdrift that is dwarfing a snow shovel shown standing upright.
Snowdrifts were as high as 3 m (10 ft.) in Caribou, Maine, in late February. Credit: U. S. A National Weather Service (NWS) Caribou.
The photo of an ice wall on the eastern shore of Bras d’Or Lake in Cape Breton shows a wall of large blocks of ice that towers above the people walking on the shoreline beside it.
Strong winds in late February created an ice wall in Cape Breton. Image courtesy of Tom Ayers/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
The polar vortex is an area of low pressure and extremely cold air above the Earth's poles. At the outermost edge of this cold air mass is the polar jet stream. When the polar vortex is stable, a strong jet stream keeps the cold air contained. Sometimes during winter, the polar vortex is displaced or splits into pieces. Large waves form in the weaker jet stream and cold air moves south (and warm air moves north in other areas). The strength of the polar vortex and the phase of the Arctic Oscillation are closely related. In January, the region was brushed by Arctic air after the polar vortex weakened. Frigid temperatures and strong winds created dangerously low wind chills, causing some schools to delay opening.
Two global maps of the northern hemisphere side by side. The map on the right depicts a more typical compact polar vortex on November 14 to 16, 2013. The shades of purple indicate the location of the polar vortex, which is concentrated over the Arctic Ocean and extending south into northern Russia, northern Canada and Alaska. The map on the left depicts a wavy configuration of the polar vortex that occurred on January 5, 2014. The shades of purple indicate that the polar vortex extended as far south as central Canada, the U.S. Midwest, northeastern Asia and northern Atlantic Ocean.
Weak polar vortex (left) and strong polar vortex (right). Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Regional Outlook: Spring 2019
Temperature and Precipitation
Map of the spring temperature outlook for New England (left panel) shows the entire area with a 40 to 50% probability of above-normal temperatures, averaged over March to May.
Map of the spring temperature outlook for the Maritimes (centre panel) shows increased probabilities of above-normal temperatures over most of the Maritimes except for eastern sections. The probabilities increase toward the south, with 40 to 50% over northern New Brunswick and 60 to 70% over southern Nova Scotia.
Map of the spring precipitation outlook for the Maritimes (right panel) shows increased probabilities of above-normal precipitation over most of the Maritimes except for eastern sections of Nova Scotia, with probabilities of 40 to 50%.
Climate Prediction (CPC) temperature outlook map (left) produced February 21. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) temperature outlook map (centre) and precipitation outlook map (right) produced February 28.
For March–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.
Spring Flood Potential
The map of spring flood potential for New England indicates the flood category. The scale shows flood categories of major, moderate, and minor. The flood category is moderate over an area stretching from northern Maine to northern New Hampshire. It is minor over much of the rest of Maine, New Hampshire, and eastern Massachusetts, except for coastal sections where no flood potential is shown.
The river flood potential during spring is generally above normal for New England, especially parts of Maine and New Hampshire due to "the combination of existing snowpack, above normal precipitation, saturated soil conditions, and above normal streamflow..." There is also widespread potential for ice jam flooding in those areas. Very heavy rain can cause flooding at any time of the year in any area.
El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
Time series graph of the official probabilistic El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecast, issued in early March by the US Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society.
EÑSO state based on NINO3.4 Sea surface temperature (SST) Anomaly
Neutral ENSO: -0.5 °C to 0.5 °C
Vertical bars show the forecast probability, covering 3-month intervals, of each EÑSO condition (La Niña, neutral, and El Niño) with bars in blue, grey, and red, respectively. Each 3-month interval overlaps by two months.
The time period covers the late winter to early spring months (February to April) through to the late autumn to early winter months (October to December).
Lines of the equivalent colours show the climatological probability of each condition over the 3-month intervals.
The time series graph of ENSO probabilities forecast for the year ahead shows high probabilities for El Nino conditions for the first half of the period with probabilities gradually decreasing to near 50% by early fall (the August-September-October period). Over the same period, the probability for neutral conditions increases slowly to just below about 40%, while the probability of La Nina remains very low.
Weak El Niño conditions formed in January and continued during February. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center indicates there is an 80% chance that the weak El Niño will continue through spring and a 60% chance it will continue through summer.
Gulf of Maine Partners
- Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Climate Network
- University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences
- State Climatologists
- National Integrated Drought Information System
- Northeast Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Systems
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Northeast Regional Climate Center
Name: Ellen Mecray
Name: Samantha Borisoff
Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook Reports. – online at Canada.ca
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