Global warming hasn’t been fair to Maine

July 2004

By Dodge Morgan

There are a number of indicators we use to determine the arrival of summer in Maine – greening and flowering of the landscape, return of the osprey, geese goslings, striped bass, songbirds. The lawn needs mowing, heating bills abate, boats cry for bilge cleaners and paintbrushes, boatyards bustle with action.

And the air and sea temperatures are supposed to rise. I was informed that weather gurus say that in early June we were about six weeks late in the seasonal change this year.

A major milestone to summer for me is the voyage of Wings of Time back to Maine from the British Virgin Islands. This year’s passages were relatively uneventful. We did sail hard on a northeast wind for nine days out of the total 11, but never in heavy conditions. The sea temperatures for the first few days were in the low 80s, then in the mid-70s from a couple hundred miles south of Bermuda up to the Gulf Stream.

We found the “Blue God” 60 miles south of where the stream chart told us it would be and encountered a cold eddy foul current well west of where it was charted. Sea temperatures rose suddenly from 72 to 78 in the stream, which was 70 miles wide, and our over-ground heading slewed 15 degrees east from our compass heading.

Exiting at the north wall, the sea temperature dropped instantly to 67 degrees, then dropped slowly to 43 degrees over the next 50 miles. Sea temperatures did rise to 50 degrees in the Gulf of Maine and into Casco Bay. Given the low sea temperatures, I believe the reason we have not yet been locked into an early dungeon of fog this year is the lack of warm air to fuel the advection.

These northern sea temperatures were no harbinger of a Maine summer arrival. No wonder the lobster migration to the coastal shallows has not yet occurred for us. Snow Island is lush with summer growth, but the ferns are slow and the oaks are just lightly leafed out. All six Osprey nests are occupied and the hunters are happily plucking small fish out of Quahog Bay.

I would like to know why Maine has not benefited from global warming, certainly not in the last two winters, anyway. I can say that this past winter seemed colder than the year before, largely because Quahog Bay froze over deeply and well down into the southern side. My island commute was by airboat taxi service for more than two months. But the statistics show that the winter of ‘02-’03 was the colder of the two; degree days accumulated in the October through May periods were higher last year than this.

With our missed spring and reluctant summer, I am counting on a big-heat, fog-free July and August, prevailing southwest sailing breezes 15 to 20 knots punctuated by weekly shots of clean northwesterlies. And I am predicting a long and warm Indian summer this coming fall. And maybe a couple weeks of warm and dry right now for the boat yards.

Dodge Morgan broke all sorts of records when he single-handed American Promise around the world without stopping in 1985 and ’86. He lives on Snow Island in Harpswell, Maine.