BDN interviews Birkel about Maine record high temperatures

The Bangor Daily News interviewed Sean Birkel, Maine State Climatologist and a research assistant professor at the University of Maine Climate Change Institute, for the article “Why Maine is seeing more record high temperatures.” According to a study by the Associated Press, Maine has broken five daytime record high temperatures for every record low temperature since 2010, the BDN reported. “What the study shows is what we would expect in a warming climate. These natural variations are now being superimposed on an overall warming trend that’s being driven by the rise in greenhouse gases,” said Birkel. “The world is warming. The data shows that. But there’s still weather variation. In most places, heat waves are becoming more common, but there can still be cold waves in the winter … It can be very confusing for people who don’t see the data and work the data all the time like I do.” Birkel explained that people in Maine did not worry much about the warming climate prior to the late 1990s because it wasn’t very noticeable. After a massive El Niño event, the climate became much warmer, especially in Maine, and people started to take note, Birkel said. El Niño refers to fluctuations in ocean surface temperature, particularly warming, that can have large-scale impacts on global weather and climate, the article states. According to Birkel, Maine’s rising imbalance of high to low temperature records likely can be attributed to the state’s proximity to the warming ocean and the Arctic region. “The air coming from the north is now warmer than it ever used to be,” said Birkel. “The summerlike weather [in Maine] tends to last about a week longer than it did about 15 years ago.” And while Maine continues to have cold snaps in the winter, the overall trend shows a warmer state. “You have to bear in mind the larger picture. Just because it gets cold for a week in one place, the overall picture is that the world is warming, that there are more high temperature records being sent than low,” Birkel said.