drought

True Fall Colors: October 2022 Recap

November 7, 2022 - 6:00pm -- Dave Robinson

Brilliant fall foliage looking up towards High Point Monument (Sussex County) on October 22nd. Photo courtesy of Chris Stachelski.

There are years when many say that New Jersey didn’t experience “classic” fall weather. This October is not one of those years, as the month included rain, wind, and coastal flooding from the persistent remnants of a hurricane, many locations received their first frost and freezing temperatures to end the growing season, and there were days with a cloud-free deep-blue sky. October certainly showed its true fall colors.

October temperatures averaged 54.1° across NJ. This is 1.3° below the 1991–2020 normal and was the coolest October since 2009. It was the 57th coolest (tied with 4 other years) of the 128 since 1895. The average high was 64.5° which is 1.3° below normal and is the 48th coolest (tied with 3 years). The average low of 43.6° is 1.3° below normal and ranks 65th coolest (tied with 4 years). Northern NJ averaged 52.1° (-1.2°, 59th coolest [tied with 2 years]), southern 55.1° (-1.4°, 56th coolest [tied with 3 years]), and coastal 56.6° (-1.0°, 70th coolest [tied with 1 year]).

Rainfall was abundant, averaging 6.45” statewide. This is 2.26” above normal and ranks 10th wettest on record. It was the wettest since the record October 2005. Ten different decades are found in the top 15 years. The north averaged 5.88” (+1.43”, 21st wettest), south 6.75” (+2.72”, 6th wettest), and coast 7.53” (+3.44”, 3rd wettest). Coastal Monmouth, Ocean, and Atlantic counties were wettest, coming in at two to three times normal totals. While coming in close to normal, the driest areas were in the north central, far southern, and southwest regions.

Flipping the Seasonal Switch: September 2022 Recap

October 6, 2022 - 11:47am -- Dave Robinson

Low-lying radiation fog crossing the road in Sparta on the morning of September 24th.

Following a hot and dry summer, the questions of the day in September were when the temperature would begin to cool and would more abundant rainfall arrive. Signs of a rainfall resurgence were mixed, with drought conditions diminishing in spots but worsening in others. The temperature answer came in almost a flash on the 22nd (the first day of astronomical fall!) when a powerful cold front sent the thermometer quickly downward with an early-fall-like pattern arriving and remaining through month’s end.

September temperatures averaged 67.8° across NJ. This is 0.9° above the 1991–2020 normal and ties as the 22nd mildest September since statewide records commenced in 1895. The average high temperature was 78.2°, which is 1.0° above normal and tied for 23rd warmest. The average low was 57.3°, 0.7° above normal and ranking 23rd warmest. North Jersey came in at 65.7° (+0.8°, tied for 23rd warmest), the south 69.0° (+0.9°, tied for 21st warmest), and the coast 69.7° (+1.0°, 15th warmest).

NJ precipitation averaged 3.16” for September, which is 1.00” below normal and ranks as the 57th driest of the last 128 years. The north was wettest at 3.64”. This is 0.82” below normal, though ranks as just the 67th driest. The south came in with 2.86” (-1.13”, 51st driest) and the coast 2.98” (-0.91”, 57th driest).

Roasting: August 2022 Recap and Summer Overview

September 7, 2022 - 8:17pm -- Dave Robinson

The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (Morris County) on August 24th. While August 22nd rain proved beneficial, the water level is normally higher. Photo taken by D. Robinson.

Much like this past July, August was a hotter and drier month than normal. Despite a June with rather close-to-normal numbers, the two most recent months brought the summer temperature and precipitation to top-10 levels for hot and dry conditions. More on summer ’22 later in this report, but first to discuss is a record hot and quite dry August.

The August average temperature of 77.4° was 3.8° above the 1991–2020 normal, ranking as the hottest on record. Eight of the ten warmest Augusts since 1895 have occurred since 2001. The average maximum of 88.5° was 4.7° above normal, the hottest on record, while the average minimum of 66.2° was 2.9° above normal, tied for 5th warmest. North Jersey averaged 75.7° (+3.8°, warmest on record), the south 78.4° (+3.8°, warmest on record), and the coast 77.9° (+3.2°, 3rd warmest).

Statewide, August precipitation averaged 2.61”, which is 1.96” below normal, ranking as the 22nd driest. The north came in at 2.31” (-2.25”, 18th driest), south 2.82” (-1.75”, 29th driest), and coast 2.54” (-2.06”, 25th driest). As the map shows, virtually the entire state had a monthly total below the statewide 4.57” normal. Exceptions were found in isolated west central and central coastal areas where several storms quickly deposited hefty totals. Less than half the normal monthly rainfall fell in a good portion of the north and in scattered areas of the south and north coast.

Once Again Hot, and This Time Around, Dry: July 2022 Recap

August 6, 2022 - 11:14am -- Dave Robinson

Trees and grass impacted by excessively dry conditions on Livingston Campus at Rutgers University in Piscataway (Middlesex County). Photo taken by D. Robinson on August 1st.

When it comes to recent hot Julys in New Jersey, the beat goes on. This year the heat was joined by quite limited precipitation, something not often seen in recent years. The statewide average temperature of 78.1° was 2.7° above the 1991–2020 normal, ranking 6th warmest since records commenced in 1895. Eight of the ten warmest Julys have occurred since 2010, leaving only 1955 and 1999 as top-ten outliers. The statewide average maximum was 88.6° (+2.9°, 6th warmest) and the minimum 67.5° (+2.4°, 4th warmest). Northern counties averaged 75.9° (+2.2°, 9th warmest), southern counties 79.5° (+3.0°, 3rd warmest), and coastal areas 78.8° (+2.6°, tied as 4th warmest).

Statewide July precipitation averaged 2.19”, which is 2.52” below normal, ranking as the 13th driest on record. Of the top 15, only two have occurred this century. The north averaged 2.03” (-2.69”, 14th driest), south 2.30” (-2.44”, 14th driest), and coast 2.16” (-2.22”, 17th driest). The central portion of the state was driest, with less than 2.00” accumulating, and under an inch in the driest areas. Closer-to-normal totals were found in the northwest, northeast, and southwest. At month’s end, portions of central NJ were classified as being in moderate drought (D1) on the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map. This denotes conditions not seen more than once every five to ten years. Surrounding central and northern areas were considered abnormally dry (D0), as was the southeast corner of the state. This all coincides quite well with the most pronounced precipitation deficits of the past month.

Nondescript: June 2022 Recap

July 7, 2022 - 3:24pm -- Dave Robinson

Smoke billows from a large wildfire in the Wharton State Forest around June 20th. Photo from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

As reported multiple times during the first half of 2022, the day-to-day weather and overall climate of the Garden State have varied frequently, exhibiting lots of variability and never “locking” into a given pattern for an extended period of several weeks or longer. Such was the case this June, making it difficult to define any conditions that dominated. June was somewhat drier than average, but eight events brought over an inch of rain somewhere within the state. It was also dry enough at one point for a wildfire to scorch over 13,000 acres of the Pine Barrens. Low temperatures fell into the upper 30°s and low 40°s at multiple locations on the 20th, yet three days earlier, the majority of the state saw highs in the low to middle 90°s. “Non-descript” seems the best way to sum things up.

Statewide, rainfall averaged 3.44”. This is 0.86” below the 1991–2020 normal and ranks as the 61st driest of the 128 Junes since 1895. The north received 3.59” (-1.02”, 61st driest), the south 3.39” (-0.75”, 61st driest), and coast 2.90” (-0.95”, 54th driest). As the map shows, the far south was driest, continuing a pattern seen in recent months. The June 30th U.S. Drought Monitor map has the bulk of the southern area seen on the Figure 1 map receiving less than 4.00” for the month classified as “Abnormally Dry” (D0). This rating is also a function of both low streamflow and ground water levels. Further north, pockets of above-average rainfall surrounded a below-average central region that has yet to have prolonged enough water deficits to qualify for D0 status.

Decision-Making Dilemma: May & Spring 2021 Recaps

June 6, 2021 - 4:03pm -- Dave Robinson

A waterspout over Barnegat Bay on May 8th near Seaside Heights

Weather often varies from week-to-week and even day-to-day during the spring transition season. Such was certainly the case in spring 2021, as will be recapped later in this report. However, when it came to such “weather indecision,” May 2021 took the cake. Starting off somewhat damp with seasonable temperatures, a prolonged period of exceedingly dry weather ensued, first accompanied by cooler-than-normal temperatures and frosty mornings, and later by summer-like heat. As several wildfires broke out and soil moisture vanished, concerns of early-summer drought arose. Then along came one of the coolest Memorial Day weekends on record, accompanied by more than an average May’s worth of rain in some locations. This led to frequent decision making amongst farmers, gardeners, water resource managers, utility companies and customers, and day trippers. All were left wondering what might come next! Cicadas perhaps?

With the thermometer up and down throughout May, the statewide average temperature of 61.0° was just 0.2° below the new 1991–2020 normal. This ranked as the 47th mildest May since 1895. The average maximum of 73.0° was 0.7° above normal, while the 49.0° average minimum was 1.2° below normal. This is illustrative of a month that had many clear days and cool nights with low humidity. Despite dry conditions for most of the month, monthly precipitation came in close to normal, averaging 3.95” across NJ. This is 0.20” above normal, ranking 48th wettest of the past 127 years. Far south and west central areas were driest, while the central coast and northeast saw the most rain. Unlike last May, no snow was observed.

So Much for a Flash Drought: October 2019 Recap

November 6, 2019 - 2:33pm -- Dave Robinson

As the 10th month of 2019 commenced, attention was on the continuing flash drought conditions across the Garden State. Lawns had gone brown and shallow rooted trees were losing their dull-colored leaves early. By the second week of the month, the US Drought Monitor showed all of NJ to be in either abnormally dry (D0) or moderate drought (D1) status (full disclosure: my recommendations are taken under consideration by the national author of each week’s map). Several rain episodes in the first half of the month, particularly in the north, began to stall any worsening of conditions. However, it wasn’t until the last half that five events deposited an inch or more, three of them with two inches or more, at a number of locations around the state. Thus by month’s end, only portions of southwest, southeast, and central NJ were rated D0, and the remainder, as we like to say, in “D nada.” This turn to storminess didn’t come without consequences. This included localized flash and small stream flooding on occasion, several episodes of strong winds, and some minor to moderate coastal flooding. More on all of this below, but first to further summarize the month. In the precipitation department, the statewide average was 5.79”. This is 1.90” above the 1981–2010 normal and ranks as the 15th wettest dating back to 1895. North Jersey came in with an average of 6.72”, some 2.41” above normal and ranking 10th wettest. In the south, the 5.28” average was 1.65” above normal and ranks as the 20th wettest.

As if the wet month was not newsworthy enough, the statewide monthly temperature of 58.0° tied with two other years as the 9th warmest back to 1895. This is 3.5° above normal, with northern and southern portions coming in at 3.2° and 3.8° above, respectively. The 2nd was arguably the hottest October day on record, thus also the warmest for so late in the season. Meanwhile, several locations experienced the first freeze of the season on the 4th or 5th, with a more widespread frost and freeze on the 19th. Still, the month ended with only 18 of the 63 NJWxNet stations having fallen to the freezing mark.

Off Goes the Faucet: September 2019 Recap

October 7, 2019 - 5:26pm -- Mathieu Gerbush

Drought photo

No months prior to this past September have been drier across New Jersey since February 2009, a testament to how precipitation has leaned toward the wet side since the last major drought impacted the state in 2002. The 1.21” received this September was 2.84” below the 1981–2010 average. This ranked as the 7th driest September since records commenced in 1895. February 2009 saw only 0.66”, but since February is on average the driest month of the year (2.80”), the last time a monthly deficit was larger than this September was the 3.06” departure in September 2007. Since 2000, only six other months early in the century have been drier (February 2002: 0.75”, October 2000: 0.77”, March 2006: 0.82”, October 2001: 0.93”, November 2001: 1.00”, and September 2005: 1.19”).

Conditions were driest in the north, averaging 1.06”, which is 3.41” below normal and ranks as the 4th driest September on record. Southern NJ ranked 12th driest with 1.30”, which is 2.52” below normal. This “flash drought” depleted soil moisture, resulting in brown lawns and shallow-rooted trees losing leaves early. Fire danger also increased, resulting in a ban on open fires. At month’s end, the US Drought Monitor had most of NJ in the D0 (abnormally dry) category, with Salem County experiencing moderate drought (D1) conditions. Thanks to above-average precipitation earlier this year, northern NJ reservoir levels remained above early-fall averages. Certainly, a watchful eye will be kept on all water resources should this dry spell continue.

Above-average temperatures helped to dry things out in September. The 69.1° statewide average was 3.3° above the 1981–2010 mean. This ranks as the 8th warmest September over the past 125 years (tied with 1921; Table 2). Southern areas were warmest, at 3.5° above normal, while the north was 2.8° above.

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.

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