PORTLAND, Maine — Maine is the coldest state in the Northeast, known for snowy nor’easters, lakes that remain ice-covered as late as May and an occasional chill on the Fourth of July. It reached a bone-numbing minus-50 degrees in Aroostook County in 2009.
For the past year, however, Maine residents have enjoyed record warmth.
October marked a milestone of 12 straight months of warmer-than-usual temperatures in Maine. While the Northeast as a whole has been warm this year, no other state has had a streak like Maine’s.
And that’s fine with many folks here in snow country.
“I like it a lot. Because I work outside, it’s a lot easier on my body to work in mild weather,” said Mark Gatti, a hot dog vendor who has a keen awareness of the weather.
Because of the mild temperatures, Gatti worked more days than usual last winter. The warmth also affects his sales — when temperatures pick up, business picks up.
Maine’s streak began last November with temperatures 5.5 degrees above average, making it the state’s fifth-warmest November, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.
Things really heated up in the winter. January came in 7.3 degrees above average across the state, while February and March were 8.7 and 7.6 degrees above the norm.
Since then, monthly temperatures have ranged from 0.2 degrees to 6.1 degrees above normal.
Other Northeast states also have had extended warm streaks. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York have had 10 straight months of above-average temperatures. Rhode Island has gone nine months and Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have gone eight.
But 12 consecutive months of any one kind of weather — warm, cool, rainy, dry — is unusual, said Keith Eggleston, a climatologist at the Northeast Regional Climate Center.
“It’ll be interesting to see if it’ll continue into this winter or not,” he said.
The relative warmth can be attributed in part to El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean last winter followed by a persistent weather pattern that has resulted in high temperatures across the region.
The first few days of November have brought below-average temperatures to Maine, but the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is projecting above-normal temperatures in its eight- to 14-day outlook.
Eric Schwibs, a weather service meteorologist in Gray, said a single month’s weather is like flipping a coin — it’s pretty much even odds coming out with warmer or colder temperatures than usual. Statistically speaking, the odds of flipping heads or tails 12 straight times is 4,096 to 1.
It’s the “luck of the draw” that Maine has ended up with 12 months in a row of warmer-than-average temperatures, Schwibs said.
“I’m not complaining. I saved a lot on my heating bills last winter,” he said. “But I don’t expect to see this again.”