Don’t think that the freezing cold weather this week is setting Maine records.
“Not even close,” said Victor Nouhan, a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Caribou.
The coldest temperature reported with the present cold snap — minus 37 degrees Fahrenheit reported Monday night on the Big Black River in unincorporated areas of the western St. John Valley — doesn’t come close to the all-time record low temperature for the state, minus 50 degrees, set on the Big Black on Jan. 16, 2009, Nouhan said.
Temperatures that edged up past zero into the single digits on Friday ended at two days any possibility of the cold weather setting a consecutive-days record, Nouhan said.
Four days of below-zero weather in Maine were last reported Jan. 16-19, 1971. Two three-day subzero-weather plunges were reported on Jan. 8-10 and Jan. 24-26 of 2004, he said. A similar two-day cold snap was reported on Jan. 15-17, 2009.
“This is not that extreme,” Nouhan said. “If we have a series of mild winters people kind of forget how cold it can get even in an atypical, fairly extreme arctic air mass.”
Key elements to the miserable frigidity, Nouhan said, include cold air fronts that typically form in Canada and sweep into Maine, and the winter solstice, the December period when days are shortest and the sun is lowest in the sky.
That the cold fronts come two to four weeks after the solstice is natural.
“When you turn your oven on, it doesn’t get hot right away, and when you turn it off, it doesn’t cool right away,” Nouhan said, “so there’s a delay in time between the maximum coldness in arctic air masses that form in Canada after the solstice and their arrival here. It is normally two weeks to a month.”