From record warmth to record cold, extremes nothing new in New England

Sunshine is returning to southern New England after three wet and chilly days in a row. June 1st and 2nd this year will go into the database as a pair of the coldest June days on record. Both days set a new benchmark for Boston, creating a noteworthy start to the month.

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It’s amazing how quickly people started complaining about the chilly air, in spite of the fact the last week of May was more like July giving the region an early taste of summer.

Here in New England our weather averages are a product of the extremes and therefore it’s not really surprising we went from the warm to cold side of average so dramatically.

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I saw several folks touting the rapid switch from heat to chill was just another example of a new climate. The reality is every time we set a record or have an unusual period of rain, cold, snow or heat doesn’t necessarily prove anything about the climate. In spite of having some ideas about an ever changing climate, we’ll need decades more data to really understand better where it’s headed and how fast it gets there.

A pair of cold days in June tells us nothing about climate, but does show our weather is very fickle. The amount of hyperbole thrown around every time the weather is whatever someone thinks it’s supposed to be on that day is frankly silly and frustrating to many of us in the meteorological community.

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A June Of Old
On June 2nd, back in 1909, in the town of Van Buren, the temperatures reached an unbelievable 20F for the coldest June reading in New England. In southern New England that same morning, it was in the 40s to mid-50s. About 30 hours later you could have gone to the beach, when most areas in reached the 80s.

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The rest of June 1909 vacillated between cold and hot with Blue Hill Observatory, a good benchmark for records, seeing several days 9, 10 or even 12 degrees above average. This was followed days later by temperatures equally extreme below 30 year averages. When the month was done, the temperature deviation from average or “normal” as some incorrectly call it was a whopping 0.0 degrees. None of this proves a thing, but it does show how dramatically the weather in the past did change around this part of the world.

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If we lived in Miami, Florida, San Diego, California or Quito, Ecuador for example extremes such as we see here in New England are a rare event. Those places are usually south of the prevailing jet stream and tend to enjoy much more predictable weather. In New England we spend 6-8 months of the year very close to the boundary between polar and tropical air. In the middle of winter we are dominated by polar air and in mid-summer even the air from the north is still warm. The lack of chilly air during the peak of summer means our major shifts in weather come in the form of humidity going up and down, usually preceded by showers or thunderstorms and not a general rain.

Less Variability Ahead
Things look rather nice over the upcoming 5 days. Our next chance of rain arrives early next week, but until then dry and seasonable weather will prevail. Highs over the weekend will reach around 70 degrees and while it won’t be beach weather necessarily, it will be a great time to get outside.

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