Opinion

Looks can be deceiving

Well, the march of time goes on as we’ve already flipped the calendar to the second month of the year. The sun is getting higher, daylight time is on the increase and at least some of our thoughts are turning to spring. 

Certainly, the winter so far has not been overly harsh in terms of heating costs, with heating degree days down about 10 percent for the Dec 1-Jan. 27 period as compared to last year. In fact — and thanks to the National Weather Service in Caribou for these stats — 19 of the first 27 days of January featured above-normal average daily temps. An average daily temperature is the high plus the low, divided by two and a climate day is measured midnight to midnight. Of those 19 days which featured above-normal average daily temperatures, nine of them were at least 10 degrees above normal, seven of them were at least 15 degrees above normal and three of them were at least 20 degrees above normal. In addition, the period of Jan. 1-27 was the sixth warmest on record at Caribou, where recordkeeping commenced in 1939.

But remember that old adage: looks can be deceiving. M. Nature can unload plenty of cold and snow in February and March, and sometimes even in April.

In terms of cold, the record for consecutive daily highs failing to reach 10 degrees also happens to be the latest-in-season long sub-10-degree stretch on record. Those 10 straight days were recorded Feb. 9 through Feb. 18 back in 1979. 

March can be cold as well. The record for the most sub-freezing (colder than 32) high temperatures in the month of March is 22, set back in 2014, with second place at 21, in 2008. By contrast, the fewest daily highs below freezing is only two, which occurred in 1958 and then again in 2010.

With respect to snow, “big ones” (20 inches plus) have paid us visits in February, March and even April.

Caribou’s record for most snow in a storm was on March 14, 1984, when the Boo was “Boo-reed” (buried) by nearly 30 inches of snow — 28.6 inches, to be exact. Even late March snowfall in excess of 20 inches has been recorded at Caribou, with 22.2 inches falling on March 31 and April 1 of 2001, with the majority of it coming down on March 31.

But if you want later, I’ve got later, because in April 1982, Caribou received a “spring delight” of more than two feet — 26.3 inches — on April 7 and 8, with the majority of it, 21.1 inches, falling on the 7th.

With respect to late-season exceptional daylight cold, there have only been two days in the 80 Marches measured when the daily high at Caribou failed to attain zero degrees after the first week of March. They are the 3-below-zero max temp on March 8, 2007, and the 1-below-zero max temp on March 11, 2017. I remember the latter clearly, because the sky was virtually cloudless, and, as I hustled into work, I noted how unusual it was for it to be that cold with the sun so high in the sky.

But if you would like your thoughts to return to thoughts of spring, I’ll close by saying that if you love late light, you’ll love the fact that one month from this Sunday, we move the clocks forward by one hour. At 2 a.m. on March 8, it becomes 3 a.m., and daylight saving time will be underway, with a sunset later that day at 6:28 p.m. (A rather nice improvement from Caribou’s earliest sunset of the year, 3:43 p.m.) 

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Virginia native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com 

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