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Northeast Regional Climate Center

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Keith Eggleston
Art DeGaetano
December 15, 1998


Climate of the Northeast


Wet June

During June 1998, stations in New England and parts of eastern New York were inundated with record-setting rainfall amounts making this among the wettest Junes on record. Rainfall amounts were 350% of normal in Rhode Island, 276% of normal in New Hampshire and 218% of normal in Maine making this the wettest June on record in these states. It was the second wettest June in both Vermont (229% of normal) and Massachusetts (270%), while in New York it was the third wettest (173%). Connecticut saw its fifth wettest June with 181% of normal.

Figure 1 shows the highest June 1998 rainfall total reported by an individual station in each state in comparison to the station's median, 95th percentile and previous maximum amounts. Only in Rhode Island (Kingston) did the 1998 amount not exceed the previous June record which was set in 1982. Previous June precipitation records were also set in 1982 in Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts and in 1973 in New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

Maximum observed June 1998 precipitation
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Figure 1 Maximum observed June 1998 precipitation in each state in comparison to the median, 95th percentile and previous highest June precipitation total. State maximum rainfalls were reported at Sanford 2NNW (Maine), Bethel (Vermont), Pinkham Notch (New Hampshire), Blue Hill (Massachusetts), Kingston (Rhode Island), Norwich Public Utilities (Connecticut) and Peru (New York).

Heavy rains on the 13th-14th were the largest contributors to the high monthly totals. Figure 2 shows the largest 2-day precipitation total observed in each state during June. In each state, the June 1998 amount exceeded the 25-year return period amount. Two-day totals exceeded the 100-year return period amount in Maine (Hartford), Massachusetts (Barres Falls Dam), Connecticut (Jewett City) and New York (Peru). Across parts of the region, precipitation totals in excess of an inch were also reported on the 26-27th. This led to 14-day precipitation totals that exceeded the 100-year return period amount in Vermont (Bethel) and New York (Peru) (Figure 3). In Maine, the observed 14-day precipitation total at Hartford fell short of the 100-year return period amount for nearby Bridgeton by 0.11 inches.

Highest 2-day precipitation amounts
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Figure 2 Highest 2-day precipitation amounts reported during June 1998 in each state in comparison to the 25-, 50- and 100-year return period amounts. These totals were observed at Hartford (Maine), Bethel (Vermont), Pinkham Notch (New Hampshire), Barres Falls Dam (Massachusetts), Woonsocket (Rhode Island), Jewett City (Connecticut) and Islip (New York). Return periods were computed based on neighboring stations for Hartford (Bridgeton), Jewett City (Norwich Public Utilities) and Islip (Patchogue).

Highest 14-day precipitation amounts
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Figure 3 Highest 14-day precipitation amounts reported during June 1998 in each state in comparison to the 25-, 50- and 100-year return period amounts. These totals were observed at Hartford (Maine), Bethel (Vermont), Pinkham Notch (New Hampshire), Blue Hill (Massachusetts), Kingston (Rhode Island), Norwich Public Utilities (Connecticut) and Peru (New York). The Hartford return periods were computed based on data a nearby Bridgeton, ME.


1998 Close to Becoming Warmest Year on Record

The year 1998 will be remembered for its persistent warmth in the northeastern United States. Nine of the first eleven months of the year were warmer than normal. The remaining two months, June and July, averaged just slightly cooler than normal at 0.1 and 0.4 degrees F below the long-term normal, respectively. To date, the first half of December is following suit with temperatures that are averaging well above normal.

The year got off to a very warm start with the month of January averaging 7.8 degrees F warmer than normal. This was warm enough to make it the 9th warmest January on record. This was followed by the warmest February on record in the Northeast with an average temperature departure of 8.0 degrees. May was the only other month that was among the ten warmest on record. Its departure of 4.6 degrees made it the 6th warmest May on record.

The average temperature for the months of January through November 1998 was the warmest since records began in 1895 for the northeastern United States. The average temperature for these eleven months was 2.8 degrees warmer than the 1961-1990 normal. It was the warmest January through November on record for the states of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. It was the second warmest such period for the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Four warmest January-November periods on record in the Northeast

Year Temperature
1998 51.3 degrees
1921 51.2 degrees
1949 51.1 degrees
1953 51.0 degrees

Temperatures for the Northeast need to average 30.2 degrees during December for 1998 to become the region's warmest year on record. This represents a temperature that is 2.7 degrees warmer than normal. The first week of December averaged about 15 degrees warmer than normal. Therefore, the remainder of the month needs to only average about normal to break the record for the warmest year on record.

Four warmest years on record in the Northeast

Year Temperature
1953 49.5 degrees
1949 49.4 degrees
1921 49.2 degrees
1931 49.1 degrees

 monthly average temperature departures
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The above figure depicts monthly average temperature departures from normal (area-weighted average) for the twelve northeast states for 1998 and 1953 (the existing warmest year on record). The winter and spring of 1998 was warmer than 1953. Temperatures during the summer and final three months of 1953, however, averaged warmer than the corresponding months in 1998.

(Note that in the context of this report, the Northeast consists of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia.)


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