CARIBOU, Maine — Janice Henderson of Presque Isle acknowledged Wednesday that she picked a bad year to teach her three grandchildren the basics of vegetable gardening.
“All of them are heading into middle school right now, so I took them to the store with me in the spring and they helped me pick out seeds,” she said. “We got everything planted just fine, but the spring and early summer was mostly cold, and now we are virtually in a drought, so nothing is growing like it usually does. I have a ton of zucchini, but the corn that I do have is small, and my peas are brown.”
Monthly statistics from the National Weather Service in Caribou help to illustrate her experience. According to the July 2017 climate review prepared by meteorologists at the Caribou station, temperatures across northern and eastern Maine finished at or slightly below average for the month, though some days reached down into the 40s and even 30s in northern Aroostook. The region also saw significantly below average rainfall.
The average temperature for the month of July in Caribou was 66 degrees, which was 0.3 degrees below normal. There were no days with maximum temperatures at or above 90 degrees at the major climate stations. The warmest stretches for most locations occurred between July 9 and 12 and July 16 and 22, which featured consecutive days at or just above 80 degrees.
The coolest stretch extended from July 22-30, normally a period in summer most immune from very cool spells. That time period featured several cool, fall like mornings with lows in the 40s and even 30s in the typically cool northwest valley locations. The coolest morning was July 23, where record lows of 42 and 38 degrees occurred in Caribou and Houlton respectfully, and an unofficial low of 31 degrees was reported at Estcourt Station, the northwest most location in Maine. Low temperatures across the region on July 24, 29 and 30, were not far behind.
According to the NWS, total rainfall reached 40 to 70 percent of average across the region. A total of 2.62 inches of precipitation fell in Caribou during the month, which was 1.46 inches below normal.
Only Caribou garnered above one inch of rain for an individual day, receiving 1.08 inches on July 7. In total, Caribou received 2.62 inches in July, Bangor received 1.91 inches, and Houlton picked up 1.79 inches. Meteorologists said that the last portion of the month was the driest time, as temperatures were cooler and there were fewer measureable rain days.
At the National Weather Service in Gray, the month began with warm, humid summer-like conditions, but some drier and cooler air began moving in for the 4th of July. Just as those conditions began to build again, another cold front on July 12 brought a return to cooler weather, which meant that temperatures did not rise out of the 60’s for two straight days. A week of warm weather followed, with temperatures topping out at 89 degrees on July 20. Cooler and dry conditions lasted through much of the rest of the month, according to meteorologists at the station.
The average temperature for the month was 70 degrees, which was 0.5 degrees above normal. The warmest July on record was in 2011, when the average temperature was 73.2 degrees. The coolest was in 2009, when the temperature was 65.7 degrees, according to the NWS in Gray. A total of 1.43 inches of precipitation fell which was 2.87 inches below normal and the second driest July in the 22-year history of observations at the NWS in Gray. The driest July was in 2003 when only 1.08 inches was observed. The wettest was in 2009 when 9.45 inches was measured.
Back in Presque Isle, Henderson said that she was not deterred by her gardening experience this summer.
“I have a mini-greenhouse in my backyard, and I’ve already started planning a few vegetables we could try growing out there this winter,” she said Wednesday.