Feel like an ice cream cone dropped on a hot sidewalk lately? Don’t blame your air conditioner or fan just yet. So far, 2012 has been an unusual scorcher for eastern Massachusetts, according to climate researchers and forecasters.
Feel like an ice cream cone dropped on a hot sidewalk lately?
Don’t blame your air conditioner or fan just yet. So far, 2012 has been an unusual scorcher for eastern Massachusetts, according to climate researchers and forecasters.
The six-month stretch from January to June was the warmest recorded in New England since scientists starting tracking in 1895, said Kathy Vreeland, a climatologist for the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.
In Massachusetts, the average temperature for the first half of the year was four degrees above normal, based on preliminary data, she said.
The hot streak was especially evident this spring.
The National Weather Service recorded the hottest March through May in Boston in 140 years, according to Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist at the agency’s Taunton office.
Researchers are still crunching the numbers on June, but this much is clear: Temperatures matched or shattered record highs from the North Shore to MetroWest to Nantucket for one or more days, depending on the location, in the second half of the month.
Boston tied a record of 96 degrees on June 21, according to climate center temperature records. But Newburyport took the prize for the longest hot spell – four days, from June 21-24, when temperatures matched or exceeded record highs.
Further inland, Natick baked for three days straight from June 21-23, matching record highs each day. The same happened there again from June 30 to July 2.
Walpole and Nantucket matched a record highs from June 20-22, and again on June 30 on Nantucket.
Any long, sweltering spell tends to raise questions about whether global warming is to blame. Current temperatures definitely are unusual – May was the 13th month in a row that New England was warmer than normal, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, one of six across the U.S.
But scientists say connecting a relatively short weather trend to long-term changes in the planet’s climate can be tricky.
“Humans do make an impact, and this could be a function of that – as well as normal climate variability,” Vreeland said.
The region was slated to see more severe heat the first full weekend of July with a taste of a heat wave that had hung over the Midwest for days.
“We have a warm front lifting over us,” said Buttrick, who predicted highs in the 90s in much of Massachusetts and at least mid-80s on the Cape and islands.
She said the region would likely see some relief on Sunday, July 8.
The region has one factor in its favor: Despite droughts elsewhere in the nation, the U.S. Drought Monitor in early July reported none in most of eastern Massachusetts. While federal officials reported “abnormally dry” conditions in Worcester and parts of western Middlesex counties, that is the least severe drought rating.
The rest of the summer is hard to predict. While June temperatures appeared to be on track to come in lower than normal, they soared at the end of the month.
“It was the last two weeks where it flip-flopped,” Vreeland said.
(David Riley can be reached at 508-626-4424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)