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Meteorological Spring came to a close with a beautiful, warm day on Tuesday. Yes, we weather-folk are aware that the equinox isn’t for another few weeks. But for record keeping purposes, ‘spring’ in the weather world is March-May. Now from what I’ve heard around town and in casual conversation, many think this was a chilly spring. When looked at over the whole 3-month period, that’s definitely not the case! Memories are short and of course most have already forgotten the exceptionally warm start that really helped to carry up the averages.
Temperature departures across the Northeast for the month of March. Source: NRCC
March in fact was so warm that it (along with the 2nd warmest winter on record) probably set an unreasonable standard for the rest of the season. We enjoyed many days in the 60s and 70s, and plants were ready to rock by the end of the month. I remember going out to the Arnold Arboretum to talk about the impact of all these flowers and trees waking up early. And when looked at it in hindsight, you come to the conclusion that the warmth killed a lot of those flowers more so than the cold. The warm temps were unusual, the cold start to April not nearly as much. So when we went back to more typical early spring weather, all those early blooms were put on ice. New England lost nearly its entire peach crop, and you may have noticed that many flowering trees never put on a show. My favorite magnolia in the North End of Boston went straight to green, since all the buds were opening during that miserable first week of April. Flowering trees and shrubs only get one shot, so after waking up in March they were put to rest in April.
Temperature departures for the month of April. It was VERY cold across northern New England and New York State, but just a little on the chilly side in southern New England. Source: NRCC
On the same token, this helped to alleviate allergy season. Pollens were spread out with a couple cold shots abruptly halting the sneeze apocalypse. Everything started coming out in March, then got squashed by early April snow and cold. Then they recovered, and we got cold rain in early May – washing away yet more blooms. Now we’ve warmed up again but all the flowering trees are pretty much done and we’ve moved into grass pollen season. This is a pretty sharp contrast to last year, when everything exploded at once after a frigid winter.
Speaking of that snow – Boston saw 6.6″ of it in April. Meanwhile, Worcester picked up 10″ of snow. While significant accumulations are somewhat unusual in April, they’re not overly rare (as the graphic above shows). It ended up being a snowier month than December, and helped to bring our total for the season to 36.1″. We missed the total for Boston by less than 4″ from our Winter Outlook! Not too shabby.
Seasonal rankings through Monday the 30th. Source: Southeast Regional Climate Center
When including the extremely mild March, the cool April, and the slightly above average May…parts of the Northeast nabbed a Top 10 warmest spring on record. Not the case in Boston (lots of onshore wind days). And the main gripes I’ve heard have been from coastal friends…who certainly noticed the plethora of sea breeze days this spring. Inland towns had a beautiful season for the most part.
How about rainfall? We could use more. Memorial Day brought a much-needed soaking for part (but not all) of the area. However, we’re still in the hole for the season and deep in the hole going back a full year. There just haven’t been many stormy months for us. Most of the region has seen a 7-11″ rain deficit going back to last May. The worst of it is across Connecticut and Long Island.
Oddly enough, these things can be very regional. The dryness is almost exclusive to southern New England and the NYC area. The rest of the Northeast is in fine shape, and the Mid-Atlantic is totally water logged after a miserably cloudy and wet stretch this spring. Even with the long term dryness, we’re not in dire straits by any stretch of the imagination. Reservoirs are in good shape and the pattern ahead features some more chances for rain. We don’t want to see any prolonged dry and hot stretches this summer (like we did last summer) or else the issue could get exacerbated. But the first 10 days of June look relatively cool and unsettled, so hopefully we can make up a little more ground before summer heat really starts to kick in.
Current drought monitor across the Northeast shows spots of ‘abnormally dry’ conditions but no areas classified in drought at this time. Source: Drought Monitor