Significant September record

In my weather travels, I find that folks like to talk about weather records as much as the weather, and it so happens I have a new weather record to tell you about. It happened last month at Caribou, which is the main repository for climate data here in northern Maine. The first 18 days of September were all cooler than 70 degrees there. That is the longest sub-70 stretch to open September on record, and records go all the way back to 1939, when “The Wizard of Oz” came out. 

The previous record for consecutive days with max temps cooler than 70 to open September at Caribou was 16 days, and that occurred three times, most recently in 1994, 25 years ago, and also in 1964 and 1970. 

For those curious about how the subsequent snow seasons turned out, let’s have a look. The winter of ’64-’65 was a below-average snow year at Caribou, with a seasonal total of 94.6″ (Caribou averages 108.7″). The winter of ’70-’71 saw 134.7″ of snow, and the winter of ’94-’95 delivered 133.8″ of snow to Caribou. I included these numbers for the curious, and not to suggest causality.

While on the subject of snow, the earliest measurable snow on record at Caribou occurred Sept. 19, 1991, when 2.1 inches fell. Based on 30-year averages, September only averages 0.1 inches of snow. October averages 1.6 inches, but then in November things get going, with 10.5 inches being the 30-year average. November of 1974 ended up being the snowiest month of the entire winter of ’74-’75, with a snow barrage in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Longtime County residents have some interesting travel tales to tell about getting to grandmother’s house THAT year.

Meanwhile, the foliage season started way earlier this year than last, no doubt due to the cool September. I received two photos from the same community, one dated this Sept. 25, and the other Oct. 14 of last year. The color change was nearly identical. Speaking of leaves, people from more southerly climes are often surprised to learn that our deciduous trees aren’t fully leafed out until mid-May, and then, just four months later, they are already starting to change color.

More leafy thoughts: something to consider when looking to buy a home is to look at all of the views in the summer and note which trees in your sight line are deciduous. If you have a lot of them, you may end up with excellent winter views that won’t be readily apparent while the trees are leafed out during the summer real estate season.

Another thing I do when looking at a home or apartment is to bring my compass. Knowing where the sun rises and sets at different times of the year, and how high the sun gets in the sky at different times of the year, can let you know if you will have direct sunlight in a given space at the time you desire. Many people will buy and then, only after closing, will figure out which rooms are sun-splashed at different times of the year. For those with the night shift, knowing which direction the bedrooms face is especially important if light is a problem. If so, you most definitely want a west-facing bedroom. So have a compass when you go looking. Most phones have compass apps. I still use an actual compass. I like the feel of it.

Before your next move, here are some solar positions to keep in mind. On the first day of both fall and spring, the sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and gets no higher than about 45 degrees above the southern horizon (45 degrees is about halfway between the horizon and straight overhead). On the first day of winter, the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest, and only gets up to about 20 degrees. This is very useful to know since the home immediately to the south of yours may be too close or too tall, and thus block some of your direct winter sunlight, which you don’t want to happen, since direct sunlight can help with the old energy bill. On the first day of summer, the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest and has a max elevation above the southern horizon of 67 degrees, or about two-thirds of the way up. 

A final, and very exciting, note. Caribou native Dr. Jessica Meir boarded the International Space Station on Sept. 25. So next time I announce a pass of the ISS, make sure to wave to Jessica. She’ll be returning to Earth in the spring of 2020. I find it incredible that they can launch from Earth and dock with the Space Station, traveling at 17,500 mph. At that speed, you’d get from Presque Isle to San Francisco in about 10 minutes.

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.  

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