It was the worst weather year in memory. Summer didn’t arrive until August and there was rainfall, record-breaking rainfall. The Vineyard received, as of Wednesday morning, 53.68 inches of rain in 2009, which is almost eight inches more than its annual average.
Sunshine and warmth are the Island’s true economic indicators. “In my 20 years with The Trustees of Reservations, this was the clearly the worst weather year we’ve had,” said Chris Kennedy, who works on the Vineyard as the southeast regional director for The Trustees of Reservations. “We have had some horrendous storms in the past, the Halloween Gale in 1991 and Hurricane Bob in 1991, but overall this was the toughest year.
“I am sure the shopkeepers would agree,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We didn’t just have one month of bad weather, we had May, June and July as complete washouts. When we recovered with August, it was too late.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson said for some places in New England, it wasn’t record rainfall that hurt, it was the frequency of the rain. For instance, there were 19 days in July when it rained. Total rainfall for the month was 4.82 inches, not particularly high above the average of 2.63 inches.
Providence had about six inches of precipitation above average this year. Boston had one inch above average.
On the Island, June saw 3.67 inches of rainfall, an inch above the Vineyard average of 2.65 inches. There were 25 days in the month with measurable precipitation, from a trace to as much as .87 inches. August was wet, too, with 6.58 inches of rain, 2.15 inches above average. The local data was compiled by the National Weather Service Cooperative Station in Edgartown.
“About summer? It didn’t start until the first week of August,” said James H.K. Norton, of Norton Farm in Vineyard Haven.
“We had no sun for two months. We planted everything in a timely fashion, but nothing ripened because there wasn’t any sun,” Mr. Norton told the Gazette last fall.
Jim Athearn at Morning Glory Farm had a tough summer with his fields of tomatoes. It was, however, a good year for pumpkins, and his crews harvested 5,000 bales of hay instead of 3,500 bales the previous year.
Rick Karney, director of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, raised a healthy batch of juvenile shellfish this past summer. Usually frequent rainy overcast weather is detrimental to the raising of shellfish. Mr. Karney said he had a good year raising baby bay scallops, quahaugs and oysters. “It was surprising that the water quality wasn’t compromised. With low temperatures the animals didn’t grow as fast,” Mr. Karney said.
It was a cool summer. The highest temperature recorded for the year was oddly late in the summer, 89 degrees on August 11. The highest temperature for July was 84 degrees and for June the high was 78 degrees.
Last summer, a meteorologist described the gray weather over New England as similar to Seattle. The poor weather could be blamed on the Jet Stream, a river of air that moves across the country above 25,000 feet. The stream was hanging over southeastern New England when it usually spends the summer up over Montreal.
Neal Strauss, a meteorologist, told the Gazette last June the jet stream was behaving as it usually does in the winter. “The moisture and energy from the low pressure is moving from the northern Pacific, and it is carving out a trough in the northeast. It creates this large area of unsettled weather,” Mr. Strauss said.
Unfavorable, damp and overcast weather passed over the Vineyard for weeks.
It was a windy year too.
“It was the windiest summer I can remember,” said Scott McDowell, a Menemsha charter fisherman in an interview after the fall Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. “I just finished my 19th year. The wind kept us tied to the dock. It cancelled charters.
“You hear, we are all worried about the economy, but it was the wind, stupid,” Mr. McDowell said. “I had the customers. The fish were here. It was the wind. At times, I felt the wind was grinding.”
It was a great season for renting tents, according to Sandra Lippens of Tilton Rentall in Oak Bluffs.
There was plenty of snowfall in 2009 — 28.6 inches of snowfall, nearly four inches above average. Snow came early and late in the year. Jesse Steere of Shirley’s Hardware Store in Vineyard Haven did a roaring trade last week selling snow shovels. And, he said, “I think I was the only one on the Cape and Islands who had sleds.” The coldest two days of the year were Jan. 16 and 17, when the thermometer dropped to four degrees.
The weather did have its positive sides: the groundwater table, the aquifer, is in a healthy state. William Wilcox, water resource planner for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, reports the water well he monitors at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest reflects all that increased precipitation.
“The well is about a foot and a half above the long-term average for December,” he said. “The water table is 15.5 feet above sea level. The average for the past 25 years is 13.8 feet.”
Ecologically speaking, Mr. Kennedy said the foul weather made for a banner year for the raising of juvenile coastal birds: “Shorebirds are a perennial measure of wildlife. They had a tremendous year at Norton Point. We had the largest least tern colony on the East Coast. We had 2,000 least terns at the peak of the season.
“The birds like over-washed beach, that has been denuded of beach grass,” Mr. Kennedy said.
David Taylor, the state climatologist, has a quick answer for anyone thinking that global warming is having an impact.
“This is not that unusual,” he said. After watching New England weather for 50 years, Mr. Taylor said variation is what makes New England weather:
“We have the ocean out there, Canada to the North and the Gulf Stream. Mother Nature offers plenty of variation. Just think. It was a quiet year for hurricanes.”