If you want to know how the year in weather was on the Vineyard, ask the farmers, who had plenty of warm sunshine during the day and just enough rain at night for their crops. Ask the swimmers, who were in their element in the warm ocean water all summer. Ask Island children, whose sleds stayed high and dry for most of the winter.
Or you could ask people who live near the south-facing shoreline that received a one-two punch as the outer edge of Hurricane Sandy passed by in late October, followed by a strong northeast gale one week later.
No matter who you ask, as 2012 drew to a close, it seemed like there was enough dramatic weather to fill two years.
Statistics tell part of the story.
Total rainfall for the year was 41.94 inches as of Dec. 27, 3.88 inches below normal, according to data collected at the National Weather Service cooperative station in Edgartown. Total snowfall for the year was 10 inches, about half what the Vineyard usually sees on average.
The highest temperature of the year was 95 degrees, not a record, but it came twice in June which is early. On six days in June and July the temperature reached 90 degrees or higher. The average high temperature in July was 83 degrees, well above the normal average high of 78 degrees.
The two coldest days last winter were on Jan. 4 and Jan. 16 when the thermometer dropped to 13 degrees. The third coldest day was Jan. 15 when the temperature dipped to 14. The highest temperature in January was 57 degrees.
Snowfall was scant. On Jan. 21 and 22 a storm delivered 8.5 inches of white, fluffy snow, but the winter wonderland was short-lived when temperatures climbed into the 50s and it all melted away in a matter of a few days.
On the ocean there was more evidence of unusually mild temperatures for the region, when in early spring, right whales were spotted south of the Vineyard. Whale experts attributed the unusual appearance to warmer water and an abundance of food. There were reports from fishermen who found tropical fish swimming in local waters. Trigger fish were caught early in the summer. A sergeant major fish was caught in August, along with a cobia. In September someone caught a spotted grouper. These are all fish more often associated with a lower latitude.
Summer weather mostly smiled on Vineyard farmers, who were spared the drought experienced on the mainland. “There weren’t the long days of overcast skies. It was mild most of the time. There was enough heat, but not too much,” said Jim Athearn, who with his family owns Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown. Only the strawberry crop did not fare well in a season where temperatures were too warm too early for ideal berry growing, Mr. Athearn said.
The summer also saw a number of impressive thunderstorms. There were eight days in July and August when there was thunder. A large thunderstorm on the night of Sept. 6 that felt like a monsoon delivered close to half an inch of rain in half an hour.
There was a tornado watch for the Vineyard in the second week of August when a dramatic front passed overhead and took many sailors by surprise.
The year had its share of wind, and of course the main story in the year of weather was Hurricane Sandy, the historic storm that delivered a lethal blow to the New Jersey coast and New York city on Oct. 29 and 30. Both are still recovering at this writing. The Vineyard was at the outer edge of Sandy and luckily escaped the worst, but still experienced hurricane-force winds, severe flooding and erosion, especially on south-facing coastlines. Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark was ravaged by the storm, and at least three Vineyard houses were left precariously perched at the edge of the ocean and will now need to be moved. Stories were told about the great hurricanes of history, including the one in 1938, and significantly, New Bedford and Fairhaven observed the 50th anniversary of their hurricane barrier which now protects those deep water ports during the most severe storms.
A week after Sandy passed through the Island was blasted with another strong northeaster, but by this time Islanders were well accustomed to ferry cancellations and the need for tall rubber boots.
After all, this was the season for it.
And compared to other places, the Vineyard had a pretty good year for weather.