Snow flies in the wind as Lucy Eills, of Portland, scrapes her windshield on March 14. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer, file

Snow. It’s a four-letter word that every Mainer either loves or hates. But it’s coming whether you like it or not.

This year will be different than the last few winters in Maine when it comes to snow. This will be an El Nino winter, not a La Nina like we’ve seen the last few seasons. So get your shovels and boots ready, make sure you’ve got the plow guy on speed dial, and settle in for a chat about how much snow I expect to have fallen once we close the book on the 2023-24 winter season in the Pine Tree State.

It’s only fair to start off by comparing the last few winters’ pattern to what will come this year. The last three winters saw cooler water for the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and that led to warm temperatures in the south and an active polar jet stream in the north.

The pattern will flip this year, with the Northwest and Great Plains getting the warmer temperatures and the polar jet running over New England. Typically, an active southern branch of the jet stream is observed, which I believe will lead to more nor’easters this year.

The big question that will determine a lot is whether we see a neutral or strong El Nino.

A neutral phase of El Nino would generally mean a cold a snowy pattern for much of Maine. But a strong El Nino would show more opportunities for rain along the coast and snow inland.


The No. 1 snowstorm on record for Portland was 31.9 inches, which fell from Feb. 8-9, 2013, during a neutral El Nino. The fourth biggest snowstorm on record was 23.8 inches on Jan. 27-28, 2015, also a neutral El Nino.

Annually, Portland sees a little more than 60 inches of snow, with Bangor getting around 66 inches. Caribou, meanwhile, gets nearly 110 inches of snow a year.

Northern Maine saw its snowiest year in 2007, with 197.8 inches during a weak El Nino to La Nina phase.

Seasonal temperature outlooks for the upcoming winter feature a 50%-60% chance of above-average temps for all of Maine, according to the National Weather Service. Typically, Maine winters look for highs to average around 35 degrees in Portland and 31 in Bangor, with averages for both cities in the mid-20s.

The precipitation outlook for December to February shows a clear above-average track of storms in the southeast thanks to the active subtropical jet in a classic El Nino. The first flakes and 1-inch accumulation typically happens on Nov. 8 in Caribou, Nov. 21 in Bangor and past Thanksgiving in Portland.

I’m calling for plenty of nor’easters this winter due to the polar jet and subtropical jet phasing together many times.


The one area to keep an eye on is the southern coast, which could get robbed from big snows during nor’easters thanks to an onshore wind component from a “warmer” Gulf of Maine. The high elevations – the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the western/northern mountains of Maine – will still see plenty of snow.

I don’t expect this to be the coldest winter, or even in the top 5.

Last year, northern Maine ended up with more snow than average, while this year, I think it’ll will be closer to the average due to more nor’easters not making it that far north, but several feet will still fall.

The immediate coastline will have a tough time keeping snow on the ground again this year thanks to a warmer-than-average Gulf of Maine.

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