drought

Even a Quiet Month Can be Interesting and an Overall Mild and Dry Season: November and Fall 2017 Summary

December 5, 2017 - 3:06pm -- Dave Robinson

High Point snow, November 8

Even in a rather tranquil month, there are always interesting aspects of New Jersey’s weather and climate that can make for memorable situations. Such was the case during the 11th month of 2017. On the heels of a mild October and first week of November came one of the coldest early-season blasts on record on the 11th. Then the 19th saw some of the strongest winds of the year across the state. Overall, dry conditions by month’s end put the northern Highlands in the D0 (abnormally dry) category on the US Drought Monitor map, threatening to expand further into the state should dry conditions persist.

Rainfall averaged 1.68” across the state. This is 1.93” below the 1981–2010 mean and ranks as the 19th driest November since 1895. It was the driest since 1.30” fell in 2012 and well above the record low 0.54” in 1917. The statewide average temperature of 44.3° tied with 1938 as the 75th coolest (or 49th mildest) on record. The average was 0.9° below the 1981–2010 mean, but 0.8° above the 1895–2017 mean. This demonstrates how New Jersey has warmed in recent decades compared to earlier in the 20th century.

Delays Abound: October 2017 Summary

November 6, 2017 - 2:59pm -- Dave Robinson

October 29-30 2017 rainfall total map

The tenth month of 2017 was marked by the slow arrival of October-like conditions, including the first freezes of the season, the close-to-two week delay in the fall leaf season, and the absence of much precipitation until two late-month storms made up for lost time. Amidst all of this, October proved to be the second warmest across New Jersey since the onset of records in 1895. The 60.7° average was 6.2° above the 1981–2010 normal, trailing the 2007 record by 1.4°, but 0.9° above the now third mildest October in 1971. The month ended with a large portion of the state yet to be visited by the first freeze of the season.

Rainfall was rather limited throughout the first three weeks of the month, leading to an expansion of D0 “abnormally dry” conditions across the northern half of the state in the US Drought Monitor. It was anticipated that a portion of the north would move to a D1 “moderate drought” designation and the remainder of NJ to D0 come the October 31st weekly map (as mentioned in previous reports, the state climate office plays a significant role in making such designations). However, some welcome rain fell on the 24th, and on the 29th the largest statewide rain event since April 30, 2014, brought close to, and in some areas more than, a month’s worth of liquid in a major storm. This arrived on the 5th anniversary of Sandy and 6th anniversary of a historic early season snowstorm. When all was said and done, statewide October precipitation averaged 4.96”. This is 1.07” above average and ranks as the 25th wettest of the past 123 years.

A Potpourri of Weather: June 2017 Summary and Mid-Year Recap

July 5, 2017 - 5:19pm -- Dave Robinson

Rainbow photo

Occasionally there are months that defy a “directional” theme when it comes to the weather and climate conditions experienced across the Garden State. In other words, conditions didn’t lean markedly toward, for example, wet or dry, cold or warm, or calm or stormy. June 2017 was one of those “potpourri” months. There were thunderstorms with drenching rain and even two tornadoes occurred, yet there were stretches of comfortable, dry weather. There was a three-day heat wave, with the temperature going as high as 97°, and some cool nights, with 35° being the coldest observed temperature in the state. When the precipitation was added up, the statewide average came out to 3.34”, which was 0.67” below the 1981–2010 mean of 4.01” and ranks as the 54th driest June of the past 123 years. The statewide average temperature of 70.5° was 0.7° above average. This ranks as the 27th mildest June on record.

Talk of Drought Evaporates: May and Spring 2017 Recaps

June 5, 2017 - 4:19pm -- Dave Robinson

Bayonne street flooding

It is always comforting to enter the water demand season, namely summer, with a bit of a hydrological cushion. Such is the case this year across NJ, thanks to ample rain and some late-season snow in recent months. This timely precipitation has eliminated drought concerns that stemmed from drier-than-normal intervals during 2016. As a result of the precipitation deficits, ground water, streamflow, and reservoirs all dropped to precarious levels, thus the issuance last fall of a drought warning by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection over northern NJ and a drought watch in some southern counties. Aside from two reservoirs in west central NJ remaining below average, at the moment all other hydrological signs are positive. However, no one should let their guard down and fail to appreciate the finite nature of our fresh water resources, and how quickly a period of abundance can lapse again into drought.

More will be noted regarding spring (March–May) conditions later in this report. First taking a look at May, New Jersey experienced its 9th wettest on record, with observations extending back to 1895. The statewide average rainfall of 6.62” was 2.63” above the 1981–2010 average and the wettest May since 1990. Frequent clouds and rain resulted in many chilly days, however, a mid-month heat wave was impactful enough such that the average statewide temperature of 59.8° was only 0.7° below the 1981–2010 average. It was the 61st coolest May of the past 123 years, with none cooler since 2008.

Record Warmth Returns: April 2017 Recap

May 5, 2017 - 2:19pm -- Dave Robinson

Cherry blossom photo

Following a March with the first substantially below-average monthly temperature anomaly in NJ in over a year, April brought a return to record warmth last seen in February. With a statewide average of 56.0°, the month was 5.1° above the 1981–2010 mean. This ranked as the warmest April since statewide records commenced in 1895. Five of the top 10 and nine of the top 20 mildest Aprils of the past 123 years have occurred since 2002. With the warmth of January, February, and April hardly balanced by the colder March, this year is off to the 4th warmest start on record. Only January–April averages in 2012, 1998, and 2002 were higher, and five of the eight mildest such intervals in the past 123 years have been since 2002. The 12-month period from May 2016 through April 2017 was the third warmest on record at 55.5°. It was only surpassed by May 2011–April 2012 (56.5°) and 2015–2016 (56.2°). Twelve of the 15 warmest such intervals of the past 123 years have occurred since 1999, the others being in 1931–1932 (#10), 1990–1991 (#11), and 1991–1992 (#14).

March in February, & Another Mild Season: February and Winter 2016-2017 Recap

March 6, 2017 - 4:26pm -- Dave Robinson

Crocuses photo

On many an afternoon this past February, one had to be reminded that, according to the calendar, we were in the midst of a winter month. While there was a modest snowstorm for central and northern areas on the 9th, there were 11 days, including the day prior to the storm, when temperatures equaled or exceeded 60° at one or more New Jersey locations. The average statewide monthly temperature of 40.1° made February 2017 NJ’s mildest since records commenced in 1895. The average was 6.6° above the 1981–2010 mean and 1.0° above the previous record in 1998. In fact, the 2017 average was only 0.7° lower than the mean for March, and would rank as the 54th mildest (69th coolest) March on record. February precipitation (rain and melted snowfall) averaged 1.70”. This was 1.10” below the 30-year mean and ranks as the 11th driest on record. Only the storm on the 9th delivered more than an inch of rain or melted snow to some observing stations around the state.

A Rather Quiet End to the Year: December 2016 Recap and Annual Summary, including the Top 10 Events of 2016

January 4, 2017 - 3:40pm -- Dave Robinson

Snow photo

The atmosphere was in a progressive mode throughout December, which explains why no particular weather feature lingered in NJ or elsewhere across North America for too long. The seemingly day-to-day changes resulted in the statewide mean temperature of 36.4° being just 1.2° above the 1981–2010 normal. This ranks as the 28th mildest December since statewide records commenced in 1895, a far cry from last year’s record mild conditions. Despite there being seven precipitation events, one of which was mainly a carry over from November 30th, the rapid movement of these systems meant that none deposited prodigious totals in NJ. Thus 3.37” fell, which is 0.48” below average. This ranks as the 55th driest December. Monthly statewide snowfall averaged 2.0”. This is 2.1” below the 1981–2010 average and ranks 45th least snowy. The northern seven counties averaged 5.5”, the central six counties averaged 1.8”, and the eight southern counties 0.2”, all below average.

Gradual Seasonal Transition: November 2016 and Fall 2016 Recaps

December 8, 2016 - 1:51pm -- Dave Robinson

Snow photo

Much like the entire fall season, the transition into the cold half of the year was in no great hurry in November. Leaves dropped from ten days to two weeks later than normal, but eventually by the 28th the temperature fell to the freezing mark at West Cape May (Cape May County) and Newark Airport (Essex), these being the last locations in the state to experience their first freeze. A major exception to the slowly-transitioning pattern was the moderate high-elevation snowfall the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Drought conditions continued to be worrisome across the state, even spreading southwards. However, back-to-back heavy rainfall events on the 29th and 30th provided some replenishment to thirsty soils and began adding water to surface reservoirs across central and northern counties. It will be interesting to see if the atmospheric pattern change that delivered the late-month soakings is fleeting or will be longer lasting. Monthly precipitation (rain and melted snow) averaged 2.48” across NJ. This is 1.13” below the 1981–2010 average and is the 43rd driest November since 1895. It is worth noting that most of the National Weather Service stations that go into determining this average report in the morning. Thus the rain that fell later on the 30th is not factored into the monthly average; rather, it will be part of the December total. Snowfall averaged 0.4” for NJ but broken into regions amounted to 1.3” in the north, 0.1” central, and 0” south. The statewide total is average for Novembers between 1981–2010 but 0.7” below the 1894–present average.

A Climatological Potpourri: October 2016 Recap

November 9, 2016 - 2:21pm -- Dave Robinson

oradell reservoir

Season transitional months are often known for the wide swings in daily and weekly weather conditions. October 2016 did not disappoint when it came to exhibiting such variability. Moisture associated with a weakening hurricane to the south contributed to south Jersey’s heaviest rain event. A modest late-month storm brought the first frozen precipitation of the season to northern counties. Record warmth for so late in the season was part of a dry mid-month week. Halloween eve seeing the temperature touch 80° in some locations before a thunder-strewn frontal passage dropped temperatures to more seasonal temperatures for trick or treating.

Summer is Slow to End: September 2016 Recap

October 5, 2016 - 4:25pm -- Dave Robinson

Sunrise photo

Summer warmth continued into September, only beginning to relinquish its grip on the Garden State during the last week of the month. The average statewide monthly temperature of 70.1° was 4.3° above the 1981–2010 mean. This ranks as the 4th warmest September going back to 1895, with five of the eight warmest Septembers occurring since 2005. Seven of the most recent 13 months have ranked in the top 10 for warmth in their respective months.

Monthly rainfall averaged 3.36” across the state, which is 0.69” below average and ranks as the 61st driest of the past 122 Septembers. However, as discussed below, the average this month does not show the wide disparity of rainfall between the northern and southern parts of the state. While concerns for persistent dry conditions continued increasing across most of NJ through mid September, two soakings in the south alleviated worries in this region. Meanwhile, only one event of note produced totals exceeding an inch in much of the north, thus this region remains much too dry. As of the 27th, a good deal of north and central NJ was considered in moderate drought, with the remainder deemed abnormally dry according to the US Drought Monitor. North Jersey remained under a NJ Department of Environmental Protection “drought watch."

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