CARIBOU, Maine — To most people, 2010 seemed like a pretty normal year in central and northern Maine. There was enough snow for skiers and snowshoers to engage in their favorite sports and for snowmobilers to take countless trips across regional trails. Summer was beautiful but short, and the entire state endured a blizzard at the end of the year.
But the National Weather Service has found something abnormal about last year. Preliminary data showed that 2010 marked the warmest year in Caribou since officials began keeping records for the area in 1939.
It also was an unusually warm year in the Bangor area, Todd Lericos, a meteorologist with the NWS, said Tuesday.
According to Lericos, the preliminary annual average temperature in Caribou was 44.2 degrees, which is 5.1 degrees above the normal average and 1.8 degrees above the previous record, which was set in 2006.
“This year, the average temperature for each month of the year was above normal,” Lericos said. “This information comes on the heels of the fact that we just experienced the third-warmest summer on record, and the warmest winter on record was in 2009-2010.”
Caribou was not the only city that experienced such high temperatures.
Residents of Bangor experienced the sixth-warmest year on record and the warmest year since 1938. The five warmest years before that all had taken place in the 1930s, according to Lericos. Official record keeping started in 1925 in the Bangor area, he added.
Lericos said that the preliminary average annual temperature in Bangor last year was 48.1 degrees, which was 3.8 degrees above the average of 44.3 degrees. The all-time record average annual temperature occurred in 1931, according to Lericos, at 49.3 degrees.
Caribou experienced its coldest year in 1972, when the annual average temperature was 36.1 degrees.
Bangor experienced its coldest year in 1940, when the annual average temperature was 40.5 degrees.
The NWS office in Gray reported Monday that Portland’s streak of above-average temperatures has hit 14 straight months. The average December temperature in that city was 29.2 degrees, which is 1.6 degrees above normal. The last below normal-average temperatures recorded in Portland were in October 2009.
Lericos said Tuesday that a weather pattern called the North Atlantic oscillation played a “significant role” in the higher temperatures in Caribou and Bangor last year.
He said that the system produced cold and snowy conditions in Europe but brought relatively warm and moist maritime air over northern Maine. Lericos explained that the warmer air joined with frequent cloud cover and windy conditions and kept nighttime temperatures from plummeting.
“The temperature has not fallen below zero at Caribou since Feb. 5, 2010,” Lericos said Tuesday. “The last subzero reading at Bangor occurred on Jan. 23, 2010.”
Lericos said that higher temperatures have stretched into the first few days of 2011, a fact that Kim Dwyer of Houlton said Tuesday she was happy with.
She said she was not surprised to hear news of the warm weather.
“I have a number of friends in the agricultural community, and I’ve heard many of them say that the summer was hotter and dryer than usual,” she said. “I don’t think that it had an adverse effect on the crops, but I think that growers would worry about the long-term effects if we kept having warmer and warmer growing seasons.”
Karen Stewart of Caribou said she had heard rumblings that 2010 was a warmer year than usual, but she was happy about it.
“I know that we’re Mainers and we’re supposed to just accept the cold and kind of grin and bear it,” she said Tuesday. “But sometimes it is nice to feel just a few degrees warmer.”