Warm Winter And Peek Ahead To Spring

The results are in,  and it was a warm meteorological winter (Dec.,Jan.,Feb.) here in Maine. In fact, it was the 2nd warmest on record at the Portland Jetport. A few February photos from my backyard tell the story. Daffodils poking through, and maple sugaring were many weeks early in southern Maine.
December was the warmest on record thanks to 26 straight days of above normal temperatures.  Santa needed the wheels for the sleigh this year with highs making it into the low 60s on Christmas.  The first snowfall of the season arrived just a few days later on the 29th. The biggest snowfall of the season was a wimpy about 16″ less than last year’s  blizzard measuring only 8.8″ on February 5th.  February 2015 was the coldest in human record in the Portland area and those records go back to the 1800s.  February 2016 was the 9th warmest on record at the Portland Jetport and that was in spite of 4 consecutive days of subzero lows. Records there go back to the early 1940s.   Here’s a list of the warmest  meteorological winter’s on record.

  1.  31.3°  2001-2002
  2.  31.2°  2015-2016  (Strong El Nino Year)
  3.  30.3°  2011-2012
  4.  29.3°  1997-1998 (Strong El Nino Year)
  5.  29.0°  1990-1991
  6.  28.9°  1996-1997
  7.  28.7°  1952-1953
  8.  28.5°  2012-2013
  9.  28.4°  2009-2010
  10.  28.0°  2005-2006

The data was similar for northern and eastern parts of the state. It was the warmest winter on record at Caribou with an average temperature of 21.3° which is 7.3° above normal. Bangor recorded the 4th warmest winter on record with an average temperature of 27.2 degrees above average.

One statistic from winter you might find surprising is in the category of snowfall.  Portland received 41.5″ of snow which is only 3.5″ less than normal. Normal snowfall between December 1st and the end of February is 44.0″

So what’s happening, and where to we go from here headed into spring? While the temperature results were pretty extreme, it was not a surprise the winter was a warm one . The most likely reason can be simply explained by looking at the water temperature off of Peru. 2015/16  was a stong El Nino year. El Nino is an abnormal warming of the Eastern Pacific ocean which enhances and changes the configuration of the sub tropical Jetstream.
You can read more about what it is, and is not in a previous post here.
For a look back at what went into the winter forecast,  check out this blog post from back in September click here. So lets try to apply those same principals to the spring and summer forecast and see what lies ahead.
Here’s my forecast for March, April, and May.
Spring Temps
Spring Precip

Lets look at a few things that go into this forecast.   First off the ENSO Index looks to be shifting negative by the summer which would mean we’re headed into a La Nina season.

A La Nina is an abnormal warming of the eastern pacific ocean. Its effects here in northern New England are you usually less than its brother El Nino.  There a few things we can prepare for though.  First with a weaker subtropical jetstream typically provides a much more active Tropical Atlantic season should be expected.  Also, based on past La Nina’s and neutral seasons, temperatures are typically slightly warmer than El Nino seasons in southern Maine
It’s worth noting average summer temperature in Portland is 66 degrees for the period described above June through August.    I’m getting a little ahead of myself though as the intention of this post is to outline this upcoming meteorological spring.  Lets first look at the the previous super El Nino winter back in 1997/98.  It might not surprise you after a warmer than normal winter with less snow than average the spring was warm too.

March Recorded Average Temperature 36.7° (3.2° warmer than normal)
April Recorded Average Temperature 45.8°  ( 1.8° warmer than normal)
May Recorded Average Temperature 56.8°  ( 2.9° warmer than normal)

Based on that analog year, this upcoming spring should be a warm one as well. Most modeling seems to agree with that assumption.
The European Model Control suggests two 10 day periods (prior to March 18th and April 1st) will be warm relative to normal in the east.
Through April 1st

The CFS Model (US Model) for the same time frame though April 1st has similar warm signals.
CFS1Through April

It’s definitely worth noting in both of these examples the first half of March will be warmest relative to normal (next week).

NOAA’s official March forecast suggests more above normal temperatures in the  northeast.

So based on all this data, confidence is high for a warmer than normal March.  How about the rest of meteorological spring through the month of May.  Modeling is looking warm on average.  Here’s the Japanese Model JAMSTEC warm relative to normal.
NOAA’s forecast for the same time frame March, April, May which looks almost identical.

Precipitation can be more variable. With that said,  modeling is suggesting less precipitation than average here in the northeast.. Here’s the JAMSTEC through May. precip

NOAA, very similar through the end of the May.


Warm and a little bit dry is the overall consensus here in the northeast. From an early maple sugaring season,  to an early bloom of lilacs, spring should spring early this year.  While I want to ski more into early April,  using free time tuning my  lawn mower will probably  be time better spent.

Did you enjoy this most recent winter? What are you most looking forward to this spring and summer? I’d love to hear from you on social media. You can connect with me here. Thanks for reading.

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Charlie Lopresti

About Charlie Lopresti

Charlie makes up the "Weather Part" of CBS News 13s evening edition. A native New Englander, he grew up enjoying the area's exciting and sometimes wild weather.