Warmer Maine Winters Raise New Concerns

By Peter McGuire.

Mainers are no strangers to winter road hazards. Bad weather brings dangerous driving conditions. Rock salt eats up undercarriages and metal infrastructure. Springtime thaws bring frost heaves and potholes.

For generations, those headaches were at least fairly predictable. But as global climate change warms the state’s winters, erratic, severe weather will likely mean more damaging potholes and water pollution from excessive salting to keep up with more frequent ice storms.

In the last full week of February, temperatures went from far below freezing to a record high of more than 60 degrees in Portland. Temperatures crashed again immediately thereafter, and a snowstorm slammed into southern Maine that weekend.

Are those erratic swings a harbinger of winters to come? There’s no easy answer, but a warming climate means more uncertainty, said Maine State Climatologist Sean Birkel.

“We should use caution in ascribing weather events in any individual season to climate change, but the overall trend over several decades is clear,” he said. “The winters have warmed considerably. With these more extreme weather patterns it is consistent with the overall changing climate that we are seeing more winters like this.”

Erratic freeze-thaw cycles combined…

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