2019: The weather year that was

4 years ago

Do you love weather? Well then, as they say on “The Price is Right,” “Come on down!”

Down to UMPI, that is, to grab one of four, free-of-charge spots remaining for my old-school weather course on learning how to “read the sky.” We’ll talk about sky clues and what they can tell you about impending weather, and many other useful ways to “use” your knowledge of weather to your advantage. Classes are Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30 to 1:45. Call Pam Easler at 768-9450 to sign up. The first class is today, Jan. 22, but if you miss it just come for the next on Monday, Jan. 27.

Now, let’s look back at the weather year just past: 2019. 

First, a quick primer. Average temperature for a year is calculated by taking the average temp for the day (high + low, divided by two), and then doing that for all the days of the month. Then you add the daily averages for the entire month together, and divide by the number of days in that month (28, 30, or 31). And presto, you’ve got your average monthly temperature. Lastly, add all of the average monthly temps together and divide by 12, and you have your average yearly temperature.

It’s important to note the average temperature tells you nothing about the seasonal temperature range for a given location. In Caribou that range is quite large. At the coldest time in mid-January, the averages are a high of 19 and a low of 0, whereas at the warmest time of the year, in mid-July, the averages are a high of 76 and a low of 56. So if you are ever looking to move somewhere, make sure to investigate the range, and not just the yearly average.

At Caribou, the average temperature in 2019 was the coldest of the entire decade. The value of 39.6 degrees was the coldest year since 2009, and was also the only year in the decade with an average temperature below 40 degrees. A total of 154.5 inches of snow fell during the calendar year, which was the most since 2008 and was 42.7 inches above average. (By the way, climate stats in this column are courtesy of NWS Caribou.)

In Houlton, the average temperature in 2019 was 39.2 degrees, which made it the coldest year of the decade and the coldest year since 2004.

Here are some of the monthly highlights from 2019. When you see the term “on record,” note that records at Caribou were initiated in 1939. 

The big January story was the snow blitz. In Caribou, 59.8 inches of snow fell, which buried the old January record of 44.5 inches in 1994.  In addition, January was just one-tenth of an inch shy of the snowiest month on record, December of 1972. It’s certainly worth nothing that the 59.8 inches which fell in January of 2019, was only two-tenths shy of 5 feet. Five feet in a single month — now that’s a snowy month.  A severe winter storm Jan. 20 dumped 1 to 2 feet of snow across The County. Extensive blowing and drifting followed the storm, leading to snow drifts several feet deep across portions of Route 1.

A major blowing snow event occurred in February. Strong winds followed a snowstorm on the 24th into the 25th, and produced extensive blowing and drifting for two days. Snow drifts were extreme, with some more than 10 feet high high, closing many roads in The County.

March was the month, as it often is, when Caribou saw its maximum snow depth of 45 inches, which was measured on the morning of the 7th.

By the end of April, the accumulating snow was over, and the seasonal total stood at 165.4 inches, which was the third snowiest season on record. Unlike a calendar year snow tally, a snow season runs from July 1 to June 30, to ensure capture of any very early or very late snowfalls in a given snow season

May was decidedly chilly. In Houlton, it was the coolest May in 45 years.  Frosts and a few freezes occurred deep into the month, with a freeze on the morning of the 28th in Caribou.  The final flurries of the season flew at Caribou on the 15th.

Warmth was hard to come by in June.  There were only two days with highs of 80 degrees and there were three nights with lows in the upper 30s. There was even a low of 43 on June 25.

Summer finally showed up in July. It was a very warm and humid month. In fact, it was the eighth warmest July on record in Caribou. There were three days with a high of 90 or above in Caribou, the most in July in 30 years.  Fifteen of July’s 31 days saw a high temperature at Caribou of at least 80 degrees.

We saw a smattering of 80s in August, with eight days seeing highs of at least 80 degrees. For the entire warm season, there were 26 days with temperatures of 80 degrees or warmer, which was exactly normal for the warm season at Caribou, based on 30-year climatological averages.

September saw the first widespread frosts on the mornings of the 18th and 19th. 

October ended on the wet side, with nearly three inches of rain falling from the 23rd through the 31st. October also featured some very windy days, with a max gust of 47 mph at Caribou on October 17th

November was much colder than normal. But it sure didn’t start out that way, with a high of 68 degrees in Caribou, which tied for the warmest November reading on record. But then there was a very notable cold snap at mid-month which produced the earliest sub-zero temperature on record on the 17th. The first major winter storm arrived in northern Maine on the 12th, delivering up to a foot of snow in the Saint John Valley, with about 8 inches falling in Caribou.

In December, there was a noticeable absence of extreme cold. The overnight low only fell below zero on one night, -2 on Dec. 2. December was one of only eight years on record with one or zero nights with a minimum temperature below zero.

As I look at the clock, it is now Jan. 16, which is the date, 11 years ago in 2009, that the state record coldest temperature, 50 degrees below zero, was recorded at Big Black River in western Aroostook County. This eclipsed the old state record of 48 below, which occurred in Van Buren, in 1925.

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