Exploring NJWxNet Soil Temperature and Water Content Observations

August 13, 2019 - 4:46pm -- Rohan Jain

Photo of Pittstown NJWxNet station

Observations of soil temperature and water content are among the many variables gathered at stations within the Rutgers NJ Weather Network (NJWxNet). While observations at 5 and 10 centimeter (cm) depths for water content have been taken at about a dozen NJWxNet stations as far back as 2003, only since 2013 have soil temperature and water content observations been taken at 5 cm, 10 cm, 20 cm, and 50 cm at currently nine stations across New Jersey. The soil and atmospheric observations at these sites provide an understanding of soil–atmosphere interactions, such as how soil conditions respond to atmospheric forcings. Soil temperature and water content also influence atmospheric conditions; however, this is exceedingly difficult if not impossible to demonstrate at individual locations. Prior to the advent of the NJWxNet, soil temperature and water content observations were almost completely lacking across NJ. This was the rule across the United States and beyond until recently when mesonets, such as the NJWxNet, began providing vital data that will continue to lead to improved short- and long-term weather and climate forecasts.

The objective of this report is to introduce the soil data being gathered at NJWxNet stations and to demonstrate the potential value of these observations to agricultural, hydrological, meteorological, engineering, and other communities. For instance, for the agricultural community, the difference between a bountiful harvest and a subpar one is quite dependent on soil conditions, not solely on what is occuring in the atmosphere. Understanding present soil conditions and analyzing past trends of soil water content and temperature can help a farmer determine when to plant, what crops to plant and, once growth commences, when to irrigate.

Mother Nature Picking on Two NJ Communities!: July 2019 Recap

August 4, 2019 - 2:30pm -- Dave Robinson

Thunderstorm wind damage in Holmdel

With 565 incorporated communities in New Jersey, one would think that the odds of multiple significant weather events specific to any one of them within a month would be exceedingly rare. Yet July 2019 brought such a duel scenario to not one but two NJ townships. Mt. Laurel (Burlington County) was visited by two tornadoes, while one rain gauge in Stafford Township (Ocean) caught 5.00” in two separate 24 hour periods. More specifics are provided later in this report. The good news is that, despite damage occurring in each of the four events, there were no fatalities nor reported injuries.

The month as a whole was a wet one, averaging 6.15” across the state. This is 1.58” above the 1981–2010 mean and ranks as the 20th wettest since 1895. Northern counties were wettest, averaging 7.20” or some 2.45” above normal and ranking 16th wettest. The south averaged 5.61”, which is 1.12” above normal and ranks 29th wettest.

Ten of the past 12 months and 15 of the past 18 months have received above-average precipitation across the state. While the 12 months ending in January this year ranks as wettest (66.61”) of 1484 such intervals dating back to 1895, the past 12 month period ending in July comes in second place with 65.74”, just ahead of the 12 months ending in June (65.50”).

Plenty Green: June 2019 Recap

July 8, 2019 - 5:04pm -- Dave Robinson

Flash flood photo

The moist and mild pattern of late spring and early summer has left the Garden State quite green. There is nothing new to this pattern, as the first six months of 2019 totaled 27.22” of rain and melted snowfall, some 4.92” above the 1981–2010 mean, and a 49.0° average temperature, which is 1.3° above average. Each of these ranks 13th highest of the past 125 years.

Even more impressive, the past 12 months have seen 10 wetter than average and 10 warmer than average. The two drier-than-average months (March and April) were closer to their 30-year mean than any of the wetter ones. The precipitation total for the past 12 months is 65.28”. This is the second wettest 12-month period on record out of all 1483 12-month periods dating back to 1895. The wettest was 66.62” for the period ending this past January. The majority of the top 20 such periods have occurred this decade. They have included the two wettest calendar years on record (2018 and 2011) and appear to have lasted longer than earlier wet intervals. Meanwhile, the warmth of the past 12 months (54.5°) would rank as the 9th warmest calendar year but not within the top 20 for any 12-month period.

Frequently Wet: May and Spring 2019 Recaps

June 5, 2019 - 11:08pm -- Dave Robinson

Stanhope tornado damage

As was seen earlier this spring, rainfall was quite persistent during a good portion of May. However, unlike April, it was not just a matter of frequency but ultimately, quantity that made for soggy conditions in the fifth month of 2019. The statewide average precipitation was 6.70”, which is 2.71” above the 1981–2010 mean. This made for the 9th wettest May since records commenced in 1895. The northern half of NJ was wettest, averaging 8.69” (+4.35”), making it the 3rd wettest on record. Only May 1989 (10.13”) and 1984 (9.79”) saw more rain. The south averaged 5.52” (+1.72”), ranking 17th wettest.

Based on observations from 62 NJWxNet stations, there were only two calendar days (22nd and 25th) without measurable (0.01”) rainfall at any location. Three days saw a maximum of 0.01”–0.10” at one or more stations, nine with a maximum between 0.11”–0.25”, and eleven topping out from 0.26”–0.99”, while on six days one or more station received an inch or greater.

The wet conditions were accompanied by above average temperatures. The 62.7° statewide average was 2.1° above the 1981–2010 mean. This ranked as the 19th mildest May on record (tied with 1985). However, it is only the 8th warmest May since 2004. Ten of the past 12 months have been above average.

NJ Warming Knows All Seasons

May 24, 2019 - 2:28pm -- Dave Robinson

Monthly Temperature Departures, Jan 2018-Apr 2019

So often over the past roughly year and a half, I have been writing about statewide monthly temperatures being among the warmest on record. In fact, February, May, August, and September 2018, as well as April 2019, have ranked as 2nd, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th warmest, respectively, since statewide averages began being generated in 1895. Throughout this century, this has so often been the case that, seemingly, it is almost expected each month. Not necessarily a top 5 ranking, but often in the top 20.

This got me wondering whether I was exaggerating the warmth since 2000. Thus an evaluation of rankings was performed for each month and for the year as a whole. This included generating counts of the warmest top 10 and top 20 warmest months since 1895 that have occurred from January 2000 through April 2019.

A Real Spring: April 2019 Summary

May 6, 2019 - 2:34pm -- Dave Robinson

In recent years, complaints have been voiced that New Jersey “never” has a real spring anymore. Now just what is meant by that comes into question, as some think spring should most often have sunny 70° days with a few April showers included now and again! However, the main point has been that in recent years NJ has seemingly gone right from winter to summer. Whether it was a cold March and record mild April in 2017 or a snowy March and chilly April 2018 followed by the 4th warmest May, the transition has been rapid. This year, despite April being quite mild, conditions did include a mix of chilly and warm spells, sunny and dreary days, and even some nasty spring thunderstorms and gusty winds. Vegetation greened up a week or so ahead of schedule, and with it there was far more pollen dispersed than many appreciated. However, the green up was not so early that there was a great threat from a late-season freeze. Though on the 29th, the blueberry crop closely escaped damage from a light frost and freeze during a vulnerable growth period.

Statewide, it was the 4th mildest April since records commenced in 1895. The 54.7° average was 3.8° above the 1981–2010 mean and ranked 4th mildest. Six of the top ten and nine of the top 20 mildest Aprils have occurred since 2002. The average daily minimum temperature ranked 3rd highest and average maximum 10th.

Precipitation was about as average as can be. The statewide average of 3.95” was 0.04” below the 1981–2010 average and 0.22” wetter than the 1895–present average. It was the 43rd wettest April of the past 125 years, once again demonstrating how monthly precipitation totals tend to be skewed below the mean.

Lambs and Lions: March 2019 Summary

April 5, 2019 - 5:07pm -- Dave Robinson

Snow photo

Much like last month, March 2019 had a wide variety of weather conditions across the Garden State. The month came in like a lion, with a week of wintry weather, which was particularly snowy in northern and central regions. More snow fell than in any other month this season and the temperature fell below zero in one location and down to single digits at a number of others. The remainder of the month was often lamb-like, including four days with high temperatures exceeding 70° at many locations and six in the 60°s. Several inch-plus rain events occurred, along with the first lightning-filled squall line of the year, which, in some locations, included hail and strong winds.

The statewide monthly temperature averaged 39.7°. This is 1.1° below the 1981–2010 average and is the 58th mildest (66th coolest) since 1895. The statewide average rain and melted snow totaled 3.91”. This is 0.20” below the 1981–2010 average. It was the 61st wettest (65th driest) March since 1895.

Statewide snowfall averaged 6.3”. This was 1.9” above average. Northern counties averaged 13.0” (6.7” above average), the central region 8.6” (+3.5”), and south 1.6” (-1.5”). As a preview of the seasonal snow summary in next month’s report, statewide snowfall through March is 20.5”, 5.0” below average. Barring the unlikely case of April snowfall exceeding any other month of the season, this will mark the first time since records began in 1895 that March was NJ’s snowiest month of the season for three consecutive snow seasons (October–April).

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That: February and Winter 2019 Recaps

March 5, 2019 - 8:23pm -- Dave Robinson

Tree felled by wind

The second month of 2019 across New Jersey was not one that will leave an indelible mark in the memory bank. Unlike some of the wild conditions that afflicted many other parts of the nation, NJ precipitation events were only minor to moderate, and there was nothing in the way of stream and river flooding. On several occasions, cold and warmth came and went rather quickly. There were no coastal storms, thus no significant tidal flooding or beach erosion. While there was one notable wind event, overall, rather calm conditions prevailed.

The statewide average precipitation (rain and melted snow) was 3.27”. This is 0.47” above the 1981–2010 average and ranks as the 47th wettest February since 1895. The statewide average temperature of 34.8° was 1.3° above average, and ranks as the 26th mildest February of the past 125 years.

Ambivalence: January 2019 Summary

February 7, 2019 - 5:19pm -- Dave Robinson

Marcal paper plan fire aftermath

If there was one thing the weather of January did not possess, it was a consistent identity. Though one might say that conditions during the first month of 2019 were consistently inconsistent, oftentimes with rapid transitions. Yet when all was said and done, conditions did not average too much from the long term norm. Statewide, the average temperature of 31.9° was just 1.2° above the 1981–2010 mean and ranks as the 35th mildest since 1895. This included two days where the thermometer topped 60° in a few locations and four days with some places falling below zero. Rain and melted snow totaled 4.39” on average, which was 0.99” above average. This ranks as the 28th wettest January on record. Four events brought more than an inch of liquid to some locations, yet there was a two-week stretch without such an abundant total.

Snowfall averaged 3.8”, which is 3.4” below normal and ranked as the 44th least snowy January dating back to 1895. There was one somewhat notable snow event in the south and two in the northwest, though there were no “blockbuster” winter storms. Central and northeastern areas were almost shut out for the month in the snow department, and for that matter, mostly devoid of snow since the unseasonable event of November 15. For instance, Newark (Essex County) received just 0.9” and New Brunswick (Middlesex) 0.8”, the least in January for each station since 2008. For the month, snowfall over the north division averaged 5.8” (-3.5”), central 1.8” (-6.1”), and south 3.8” (-2.0”). For the season thus far, NJ has averaged 8.9” (-3.9”), the north division 13.7” (-3.5”), central 6.6” (-7.7”), and south 7.5” (-2.5”).

A Fitting Finale: December 2018 Recap and Annual Summary, including the Top 10 Events of 2018

January 7, 2019 - 1:58pm -- Dave Robinson

Rainy street

It is appropriate that the weather of last month of 2018 was rather similar to many earlier months in the year. Statewide, precipitation was above average for the 10th month of 2018 and the temperature was above average for the 8th month. This resulted in the year being the wettest on record and the 11th warmest since statewide observations began being calculated in 1895.

December precipitation totaled 5.38”. This is 1.53” above the 1981–2010 average and ranks as the 20th wettest (tied with 2007). Snowfall averaged 1.0”, which is 3.9” below average and the 31st least snowy December since 1895. The only notable snowfall was across a swath of south Jersey on the 5th, leading to a south Jersey monthly average of 1.7”. This is 1.9” below average and ranks as the 55th least snowy December. Northern counties averaged 0.6” for the month, some 6.0” below average and ranking 19th least snowy. Central counties came in without any measurable snowfall. This is 5.5” below average and joins ten other Decembers of the past 124 years without measurable snow, four of which have been this century (2001, 2006, 2011, and 2015).

The average statewide temperature was 37.5°. This is 2.3° above the 1981–2010 average and ranks as the 18th mildest December of the past 124 years (tied with 1972 and 1991).


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