Opinion

Scorched earth

My last column was titled, “My Oh My, Hot and Dry,” and stated, “By the time you read this, we may well have challenged the record for the hottest temperature on record at Caribou, which is 96 degrees, recorded on both June 29th, 1944, and May 22nd, 1977.”

Well, it indeed came to pass. The high at Caribou on June 19 was 96 degrees, and it nearly made it to 97 for a new record, but just missed it. So June 19, 2020, becomes the third 96 on record at Caribou, where record-keeping commenced in January of 1939. 

And that 96 wasn’t the only notable temperature number in June. There were 13 consecutive days with a high temperature of at least 80 degrees from the 16th through the 28th. This smashed the old record of 10 consecutive 80s, which had occurred only once before, back in August of 2015. There have also been three runs of nine straight days with a high of 80 or warmer, and 10 runs of eight-straight days in the period of record.

And you know what?  When looking at that previous single 10, the three nines, and the 10 eights, what is eye-catching is that none of them occurred entirely in the month of June. In my view, the record-crushing 13 straight days was made even more notable by that fact.

But wait, there’s more: during the streak, Caribou had only its 12th heatwave on record. A heatwave is defined as having three straight days of at least 90 degrees, and Caribou achieved that from the 18th through the 20th, with highs of 95, 96 and 93, respectively.

These are the 13 days:

     6/16: 84

     6/17: 87

     6/18: 95

     6/19: 96

     6/20: 93

     6/21: 85

     6/22: 86

     6/23: 92

     6/24: 86

     6/25: 80

     6/26: 83

     6/27: 81

     6/28: 82

Caribou averages 26 days with temperatures of 80 degrees or warmer each season. The most on record is 51, while the fewest on record is six. Through the end of June, there had been 19. Also, looking at June by itself, Caribou saw the most days on record with a high of 80 degrees — 14 — just one day shy of half of the days in the month.

Caribou averages only two days with temperatures of 90 degrees of warmer each season. The most on record is 11, while the fewest on record is zero. Through the end of June, there had been six.

Of course the other big weather story is the lack of rain.

The Northeast Drought Monitor, as of the June 25th report (it is issued weekly), now has all of The County in drought conditions, with eastern Aroostook rated D1. (Google on “Northeast Drought Monitor” and it will give you the map and the definitions.)

The period of May 1 through June 30 was the second driest on record at Caribou, with a paltry 3.26 inches. The lowest on record when you extend the period out through July 31 is 5.12 inches in 1995. The most for the same period was an amazing 21.45 inches in 2011, a year when area golf courses remained lush and green all summer, and brooks and streams ran healthily all summer long.

The average for the May 1 through July 31 period is 10.89 inches, based on 30-year climatological normals.

Looking only at June, Caribou tied its driest June on record, set in 1983, with only 0.88 inches, 2.6 inches below normal. Frenchville was 2.69 inches below normal for June, and Houlton was 2.47 inches below. These are big deficits for an important growing month. Caribou’s wettest June brought 9.03 inches back in that very wet 2011.

We’ve got to talk about the thunderstorm which struck Presque Isle on Friday, June 26. Seldom have I seen it rain that hard up here in northern Maine. The water was gushing down the streets, like it was coming out of a fire hydrant at full force — a true gully-washer. Just before the storm struck, I pointed out to some friends that the clouds had a greenish hue and said, “Looks like that one has some hail!” When hail is present in the cloud, the way the light is scattered brings a bit of green back to the observer’s eye.

And there sure was hail — quite a bit and, in spots, quite large. A National Weather Service employee sleuthed out where the largest hailstones likely fell by using the correlation coefficient capability of the radar. Analyzing the radar data to try to find the largest hailstones, he headed up to Presque Isle Middle School, where he found hail that met and exceeded the definition for large hail, which is hail having a minimum diameter of one inch. At that size, hail can begin to do damage, and in fact, I received a couple of reports of vehicles with body dings up that way.

But it was nothing like the major hailstorm up in the Valley years ago that featured even larger hailstones, which did a lot of damage to vehicles on dealers’ lots, so much so that they called help from out of state, because there was so much work to do.

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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