Is Maine experiencing more ‘extreme’ precipitation?

A car drives through floodwater on Broadway in Bangor after heavy rains caused flooding and washed out some roads in the region on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012.
Gabor Degre | BDN
A car drives through floodwater on Broadway in Bangor after heavy rains caused flooding and washed out some roads in the region on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. Buy Photo
By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff
Posted Oct. 21, 2012, at 6:19 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — According to a Maine-based environmental advocacy group, there is evidence that Maine has been experiencing warmer temperatures and more “extreme precipitation” events in recent years.

In a prepared statement released Oct. 16, Environment Maine said increases in extreme weather have been attributed by scientists to global warming. More severe weather events can be expected in the future, the advocacy group said, if carbon pollution emissions that are fueling global warming are not reduced.

The National Weather Service confirmed it has gotten warmer in Maine but noted that precipitation records are inconclusive.

“Given scientists’ warnings that recent trends in extreme weather are linked to global warming, we need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now,” Nora Graubard, field associate with Environment Maine, said in the statement.

In making its case, Environment Maine cites data that indicates:

• From January to July 2012, Portland’s average temperature was 48.2 degrees, or 3.6 degrees higher than past averages. During the same period, Bangor’s average temperature was 46 degrees, also 3.6 degrees higher than past averages.

• For both Bangor and Portland, the first seven months of 2012 were the second warmest from January through July in 72 years. Nationally, the same time period was the warmest on record.

• Maine experienced a 74 percent increase in extreme precipitation between 1948 and 2011. Fierce storms that used to occur once a year now occur nearly every seven months.

Rich Okulski, a meteorologist with National Weather Service in Caribou, said Sunday that climatic data does indicate that temperatures in Maine have been increasing in recent years. He said it is not clear from data collected by the National Weather Service that there have been more frequent heavy precipitation events in Maine during the past decade or so.

“There were fiercer winter storms in the 1970s than we have had in recent years,” he said.

He added that there seemed to be more tropical storm activity in the Northeast in the 1930s, 1940s, and even the 1960s than there has been in more recent decades.

Okulski said this doesn’t mean Maine hasn’t been getting rain. Some recent years have been wet, he said, and rainstorms this weekend and last month have dumped about four inches of rain in parts of Eastern Maine, which is about twice as much as the average rain event.

A search of data posted on the National Climatic Data Center website, administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lists only two “heavy rain” events that occurred in Maine in the past six years. One was on Feb. 13, 2008 and the other on March 8, 2008.

The same database lists many storms for the same time period in Maine under the categories “heavy snow” and “winter storm.”

Environment Maine indicated that state and federal policymakers need to take action against the largest sources of carbon pollution and to promote clean energy solutions, including energy efficiency, electric vehicles, wind power and solar power, in order to combat global warming.

Two Obama administration initiatives — both of which enjoy public support, according to the group — are critical to begin pollution reductions called for by scientists, the group said. Those initiatives are carbon pollution and fuel efficiency standards that were recently established for cars and light trucks through model year 2025, and the first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants.

Environment Maine also credited the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast with leading to nearly $1 billion in investments in energy efficiency and clean energy solutions in the region by requiring polluters to purchase permits for carbon pollution. The regional pollution reduction initiative should be strengthened to include lower pollution limits, the group said.

“Maine officials can build on the progress we have made reducing emissions by strengthening RGGI, which has been a key part of our strategy to reduce pollution and shift to clean energy,” Graubard said in the group’s statement.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/10/21/news/state/is-maine-experiencing-more-extreme-precipitation/ printed on July 25, 2014