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Webinars available online

Several webinars hosted through the Signs of the Seasons program are now available for viewing online!

Researching phenological change in Acadia National Park: from hikes to experimental gardens.

Dr. Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie shares a research update on her work in Acadia National Park and introduces a new project that includes the use of experimental gardens on Cadillac Mountain. (Recorded on June 7, 2018.)

Wood frog research and ecology.

Dr. Kristine Hoffmann provides an overview of Maine amphibians and then focuses on a local wood frog research project. (Recorded on June 28, 2018.)

Winter Climate Patterns and Outlook, Northeast Region

The Climate Prediction Center’s temperature outlook for winter 2017–18 indicates that the Northeast is more likely to experience above-normal temperatures. This is primarily linked to long-term climate trends. During La Niña winters, northern New England and portions of New York can be snowier than usual, while the Mid-Atlantic tends to be less snowy. Read the full report. NOAA’s Regional Climate Services Program created these Outlooks to inform the public about climate impacts within their respective regions. Each regional report contains easy-to-understand language, and anyone can access them through the Drought Portal.

Diagram showing La Niña winter pattern

The image above shows the typical pattern during La Niña winters. High pressure over the eastern North Pacific leads to increased blocking. The polar and Pacific jet streams tend to split around this area of high pressure and join over the Northwest U.S. The jet stream tends to be wave-like, with the active storm track along the northern states. This increases the likelihood of cooler, stormier conditions. Across the southern U.S., conditions tend to be drier and warmer. It is important to note that this is a schematic diagram representing general patterns and is not created from actual data. For more information, please visit:

Hurricane Irma Forecast from the University of Maine

Curious about how Hurricane Irma is advancing? Click here to view the latest forecast from the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer. The Climate Reanalyzer investigates climate and weather by utilizing and providing access to existing publicly-available datasets and models.

New Research Shows Summer Lengthening in the Gulf of Maine

Summer in the Gulf of Maine is now longer and warmer than ever — as much as two months longer. New research by a team of scientists led by Andrew Thomas of the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences confirmed that surface water temperatures have increased over the last three decades, with the Gulf of Maine warming at about 0.4 degrees Celsius per decade. The study used thirty-three years of satellite measurements to examine the seasonality of sea surface temperature trends for the northeastern North American continental shelf. Researchers separated the data into months so they could quantify and geographically map seasonal trends.

The new analysis showed that the increase is actually much stronger in the summer and early fall months, from June to October, and weaker in the winter months. Summer, defined as the number of days above a specific temperature each year, has lengthened – both by earlier springs and later falls –throughout the northeastern North American continental shelf region. Over the thirty-three years the Gulf of Maine has experienced two additional summer days per year, so that summer now lasts two months longer than in 1982. The Gulf of Maine region in particular has also experienced a steady delay in fall timing.

Scientists are now working on applying the same seasonal analysis to the whole North Atlantic and other regions of the North American continental shelf.

For more visit:

View the study here.

Wet Winter, Spring Alleviate Drought Conditions in State

Figure 12. The difference in accumulated freezing degrees for the 2016-2017 Arctic winter (November-March) compared to 1979-2000 climatology. From NCEP CFSR reanalysis.

The colors in the image represent where more (blue) or fewer (red) freezing degree days accumulated between Nov. 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, compared to the average for the period 1979-2000. One freezing degree day equals one day when the mean temperature is 1 degree below freezing. Temperature units are in Celsius. From National Centers for Environmental Prediction Climate Forecast System Reanalysis.

Maine’s wet 2017 winter and spring eased the 2016 drought conditions, says Sean Birkel, University of Maine research assistant professor and Maine State Climatologist.

Winter precipitation was 2.3 inches more than normal on a statewide average, he says, totaling 11.7 inches water equivalent. And spring precipitation was 2.5 inches above normal, totaling 12.3 inches water equivalent.

These and more of Birkel’s findings are included on the updated Maine Climate News site.

In 2009, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant, in partnership with the university’s Climate Change Institute, started Maine Climate News to provide a central source of information specific to the state.

“Our goal is to provide a portal to climate change science and research at the University of Maine and beyond, as well as a resource for news and climate-related activities throughout the state,” says Esperanza Stancioff, associate professor and climate change educator with UMaine Extension and Maine Sea Grant. “Sean Birkel, our state climatologist, provides updates on Maine’s climate seasonally.”

One notable event of winter 2017 was a major nor’easter on Feb. 12-13 that delivered over 30 inches of snowfall to some areas of central and Down East, Maine.

While both winter and spring were wet, the winter was warm and the spring was cool, says Birkel. The average statewide winter temperature was 20.1 F and the average statewide spring temperature was 38 F.

The temperature in March, says Birkel, was the third coldest since 1984, behind 2015 and 2014. On May 18, though, daytime high temperature across the state soared into the 80s and low 90s, breaking some records.

Birkel says the climate in Maine and across the Northern Hemisphere is impacted by the declining extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice.

Since 2007, September minimum sea-ice extent has been consistently lower than the historic baseline for the era of satellite observation, Birkel says, adding that particularly low sea-ice extents occurred in September 2007 and 2012. The 2017 melt season follows a record warm Arctic winter, and Birkel says it’s likely this September could prove to be yet another record-breaker if weather patterns conducive to melt develop.

“There is less sea-ice volume across the Arctic Basin now than at this time of year in 2012. It is almost inevitable that a new minimum extent record will be set in September,” he says. “This translates to delayed onset of Arctic winter which will, in turn, impact atmospheric circulation across the Northern Hemisphere.”

Birkel says one prominent view suggests a link between Arctic sea-ice loss and an increase in frequency of extreme climate events — heat and cold waves, record rain and snowfall — that have been observed across the Northern Hemisphere in the past decade.

Maine Climate News also contains information from the Maine Climate and Agriculture Network, which identifies data on climate change that could have the greatest impacts on agriculture. It also looks to link management options that limit farm risk and takes advantage of opportunities.

Changes in average weather and extreme weather are affecting Maine agriculture, bringing both risks and potential opportunities, according to data compiled by the network.

One notable difference is that the average length of Maine’s frost-free growing season is 12 to 14 days longer than it was in 1930, and it’s expected to continue to increase by two to three days per decade.

Several potential responses to the longer growing season include choosing longer-season crops or varieties, being flexible with earlier or later planting dates and raising two consecutive crops on the same land during a single growing season.

Daily high and overnight temperatures also are increasing, according to the network. The high temperatures can damage crops, including apples and peppers, as well as impact the health and productivity of dairy cows and other livestock.

Possible responses involve considering temperature sensitivity in site/crop/variety and breed selection; adjusting schedules to reduce worker heat exposure; and having misting or other systems to cool livestock.

The Maine Climate and Agriculture Network also reported the frequency of extreme storms in the state increased in 74 percent between 1948 and 2011. Intense storms used to occur an average of once per year and they now occur an average of once per 7 months.

In addition, the maximum hourly rate of precipitation increased by about 35 percent between 2001 and 2013. The frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are expected to continue increasing in the coming decades.

Intense rainstorms during the growing season increase the risk of soil erosion, seed loss, soil saturation, flooding, nutrient runoff and loss of fieldwork days.

Strategies include selecting flood-tolerant crops/varieties, installing ditches or drainage tiles to handle excess water and greater use of greenhouse and hoop house production.

The updated Maine Climate News also includes an article about doctoral student Nicole Ramberg-Pihl’s research involving Atlantic salmon habitat in a rapidly changing climate, and recent blogs about the wet spring, extreme precipitation in the Gulf of Maine, and early 2017 global heat records.

Ceramic Sculptor Highlights Impacts of Climate Change in Gulf of Maine

ceramic sculpture by artist Paula Winokur

Ice Cores, by Paula Winokur

What do a ceramic sculptor, lobsterman and climate scientist have to talk about?

Find out Friday, July 7 at 5:30 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church in Newcastle.

University of Maine marine scientist Bob Steneck will join Port Clyde lobsterman Gerry Cushman and artist Nancy Selvin to view images of artist Paula Winokur’s towering installations inspired by Greenland’s icebergs, and to discuss how melting polar ice impacts the Gulf of Maine. Nationally recognized radio producer and writer Julie Burstein will facilitate the discussions.

This is the first in a series of public conversations that bring together ceramic art masters, scientists, and Mainers working in natural resource-based industries to examine intersections between art and contemporary environmental issues.

The series, Elemental Intersections, is organized by the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, in partnership with University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Sea Grant Program. Funding is provided, in part, through a Creativity Connects grant from the National Endowment on the Arts.

“Elemental Intersections enables us to recognize the innovations and contributions of three master artists to the field of ceramics — Wayne Higby, Jack Troy, and Paula Winokur — and explore how their work relates to the natural world,” says Fran Rudoff, Watershed executive director.

“Art and science both arise from human creativity, and have inspired each other throughout history,” says Esperanza Stancioff, UMaine Extension/Maine Sea Grant climate change educator.

“Many scientists are influenced by artists; many artists create, interpret and react to scientific knowledge. In my work with coastal communities, as in Paula’s work, I see the power of images, sculptures and paintings to evoke and impress upon us how our climate is changing.”

The event is free and open to the public. St. Patrick’s Church, at 380 Academy Hill Road in Newcastle, Maine, is a fully accessible venue. Sign language interpretation will be available; contact Watershed at 207.882.6075. For more information, visit

The second conversation — featuring master wood fire potter Jack Troy, forest ecologist Nick Fisichelli, and Maine Guide Polly Mahoney — will be Friday, Aug. 25 at St. Patrick’s Church.

About Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts

Since 1986, ceramic artists have come to Watershed to grow their studio practice and connect with others in an environment that fuels peer to peer learning, experimentation and exchange of ideas. Through artist residencies, workshops and public programs, Watershed is a 501c3 nonprofit that serves the local, national, and international clay communities.

About Maine Sea Grant

Maine Sea Grant is a federal-state partnership program based at the University of Maine that supports relevant marine science research, education and outreach. For over 100 years, UMaine Extension has been putting university research to work in homes, businesses, farms and communities — in every corner of Maine.

June 2017 Gulf of Maine Region Climate Impacts and Outlook Quarterly Reports on Wet Spring

Read the latest update from the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment.

Drought conditions in the Gulf of Maine region eased this spring, with precipitation above normal for many areas between March and June. Sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine remained warmer than normal in much of the Gulf’s western portions.

The newly released Gulf of Maine Region Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook (PDF) summarizes the spring’s major weather events, temperature and precipitation fluctuations from normal, and the seasonal outlook for Summer 2017. Both NOAA and Environment and Climate Change Canada predict an increased chance of above-normal temperatures.

Incorporating meteorological data generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Outlook of an ongoing collaboration between the two agencies sparked by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (GOMC).

The Gulf of Maine Region Outlook is issued every March, June, September, and December. To view the June edition and to receive future copies, visit Climate Network.

Extreme Precipitation in the Gulf of Maine Region: Challenges and Responses

The Gulf of Maine region is experiencing more extreme precipitation events, raising concerns about flooding, damage to infrastructure, increased discharges from combined sewer overflows, and greater stormwater runoff impacts (from eutrophication to waterborne diseases).

Earlier this month, the Climate Network hosted an hour-long session on extreme precipitation with guest speakers and an overview of resources that the Climate Network has developed to help communities access sound science to aid in decision-making (e.g., the new Extreme Precipitation in Atlantic Canada website and the Climate Dashboard).

Two guest presenters — Cliff Sinnott, Executive Director of the Rockingham County Planning Commission in New Hampshire, and Rob Capozi, Adaptation Specialist with the New Brunswick Climate Change Secretariat — shared innovative approaches that their jurisdictions are taking to address this challenge.

View the video of this session.

Early 2017 Continues to Set Heat Records

Early 2017 is continuing to set global heat records, according to independent monthly analyses of global temperatures at scientists by NOAA Centers for Environmental Information and NASA a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Global surface temperatures are a key climate change indicator.

March was the second warmest March on record in the last 137 years. The warmest March on record was last year, in 2016, when it was 1.27°C warmer than the March mean temperature. March 2017’s temperature was 0.15°C cooler than March 2016, but 0.2°C warmer than any previous March.

February was the second hottest on record for the planet. The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for February 2017 was 0.98°C (1.76°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.9°F) — the second highest for February in the 137-year period of record. February 2017 trails only behind the record set in 2016, which was +1.20°C (+2.16°F) above the 20th Century average. February 2015 was the third highest on record.

For more information see:

Extent of Arctic Ice Lowest in 38 Years

A key climate change indicator, the extent of arctic sea ice, was at a record low maximum extent for the third straight year. This year, arctic sea ice reached it’s yearly maximum on March 7 when it obtained 5.57 million square miles. After March 7 sea ice started to decline with the start of the melt season. The 2017 arctic maximum is now the lowest in the 38-year satellite record, lower then 2015’s maximum of 5.605 million square miles that was reached on February 25, and 2016’s maximum of 5.606 million square miles.

In addition to the low ice extents, scientists also found that the arctic ice is thin. Data from both the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite and the University of Washington’s Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System showed that this winter’s ice was slightly thinner then the past four years and that the ice volume was unusually low for this time of the year.

Sea ice extent is measured and compiled by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which is part of the is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and NASA.

The sea ice minimum will occur sometime in September. NSIDC scientists noted that Such thin ice going into the melt season sets us up for the possibility of record low sea ice conditions this September when the sea ice minimum is likely to occur.

In February 2017 the extent of artic ice reached record lows. Arctic sea ice extent for February 2017 averaged 5.51 million square miles, the lowest February extent on record since satellites began recording arctic ice 38 years ago in 1979. This extent is 15,400 square miles below February 2016, the previous lowest arctic ice extent for the month. It is also below the February 1981 to 2010 long-term average by 1.18 million square kilometers (455,600 square miles).

For more information see:


Gulf of Maine Region Climate Impacts and Outlook Quarterly Reports on Variable Winter Weather

Predictions for a warmer than normal winter season proved true for the Gulf of Maine region, despite some extreme temperature fluctuations and several blizzards. Sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine remained above average, sustaining a trend evident since September 2015.
The newly released Gulf of Maine Region Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook summarizes some of the winter’s major weather events, temperature and precipitation fluctuations from normal, and the seasonal outlook for Spring 2017. The US Drought Outlook expects drought conditions to moderate in much of the region, and both NOAA and Environment and Climate Change Canada anticipate above-normal temperatures.
Incorporating meteorological data generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the Outlook of an ongoing collaboration between the two agencies sparked by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (GOMC)
The Gulf of Maine Region Outlook is issued every March, June, September and December. To view the March edition and to receive future copies, visit

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