PORTLAND — The National Weather Service says this winter has been the warmest on record in Maine, a delight for people who hate the cold and a disappointment for most of the state’s ski resort operators.
The average temperature for the three months that the weather service uses to define winter — December, January and February — was 28.9 degrees, nudging above the previous record of 28.8 degrees set in 1952-53, according to officials at the agency’s office at Portland International Jetport.
The temperature for an average Maine winter is 23.5 degrees.
Weather service meteorologist Augie Sardinha said February was the third warmest on record with an average reading of 30 degrees. It also was the first February featuring five days when the mercury surged to 50 degrees or warmer: Feb. 3, 4, 9, 20 and 22.
At the weather service’s northern Maine office in Caribou, officials had not fully analyzed the figures Friday morning, but February’s average temperature of 15.1 degrees was 2.1 degrees above normal and the 20.5-degree average in December was 4.8 degrees warmer than usual.
Only January was colder than normal, with a 7.1-degree average that fell 3.5 degrees shy of the usual temperature, said meteorological technician John Chiaramonte.
Snowfall also was slight, totaling only 26.5 inches in Portland during the three-month period, the 10th lightest on record and 28.7 inches below normal.
The unusually balmy weather, coupled with a sluggish economy and the turmoil in the Middle East, translated into a drop in business for nearly all of Maine’s ski resorts, although the ability to make artificial snow helped them make it through the season.
“If this had happened 10 years ago, the areas would be closed right now and some would have been closed since December,” said Michael Reynolds, executive director of the Ski Maine Association.
One exception to the rule was the Sunday River resort in Bethel, where owner Leslie B. Otten said business was up by nearly 10 percent. Otten said one trail at his ski area had a packed base of 15 feet, but that only about one foot of that snow had fallen from the sky.