Winter Continues to Hide: January 2012 Summary

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
February 4, 2012

New Jersey joined the bulk of the lower 48 states in having a milder, less snowy January than usual, and certainly a far more tranquil one than last year. A fast moving jet stream roaring west to east to our north kept polar air at bay. One only has to look to Alaska to see where the cold was locked up, as the 49th state experienced one of their coldest Januaries on record. Along the south coast, it was also one of their snowiest.

Back here in NJ, January marked the 12th consecutive month with temperatures above the 1981-2010 average. Precipitation was below average and snowfall generally less than half of average, with only one event of note. The 35.2° average temperature across the state was 4.0° above normal. This average is based on several dozen stations, and ranked as the 19th mildest January since state-wide records commenced in 1895. Combined with the 4th mildest December in the previous month, the 38.0° combined average for these months ties with 1997/1998 as the 7th mildest such interval on record.

The past 12 months have averaged 55.8°. This is 2.6° above the 1981-2010 mean and is the 3rd warmest consecutive 12-month average on record in the Garden State (Table 1). Only the 12-month intervals ending in September 2002 and October 2002 were warmer. An impressive 23 of the top 25 such intervals have occurred since late 1997.

Rank Period Year (of end month) Avg. Temp.
1 Oct-Sep 2002 56.01°
2 Nov-Oct 2002 55.91°
3 Feb-Jan 2012 55.83°
4 Sep-Aug 2002 55.75°
5 Aug-Jul 2002 55.72°
6 Jan-Dec 1998 55.63°
7 Nov-Oct 2010 55.54°
8 May-Apr 2002 55.53°
9 Jun-May 2006 55.48°
10 Dec-Nov 2002 55.43°
11 Jun-May 2002 55.35°
12 Aug-Jul 2006 55.35°
13 Oct-Sep 2010 55.34°
14 Dec-Nov 1998 55.33°
15 Jan-Dec 2006 55.33°
16 Apr-Mar 2002 55.31°
17 Jul-Jun 2002 55.30°
18 Jul-Jun 2006 55.30°
19 Oct-Sep 1991 55.28°
20 Sep-Aug 1991 55.19°
21 Jan-Dec 2011 55.19°
22 Nov-Oct 1949 55.19°
23 Feb-Jan 2007 55.18°
24 Feb-Jan 1999 55.18°
25 Dec-Nov 2010 55.17°

Table 1. The 25 warmest consecutive 12-month intervals in New Jersey since 1895. There have been 1394 such intervals over this time span.

Daily maximum temperatures in January commonly surpassed 50°. On seventeen days, more than one of the 50 stations in the NJ Weather and Climate Network maxed out at 50° or higher. On four afternoons the 60° mark was achieved. Bethel Mill Park (Gloucester County) reached 60° on the 6th. The 7th was the warmest day, with seven stations topping out at 66°, and 38 in total equaling or exceeding 60°. The coolest maximum that day was 53° at High Point Monument (Sussex). The last week was mild, with four stations reaching 62° on the 17th and High Point Monument again the coolest at 50°. The 31st saw Toms River (Ocean) and Upper Deerfield (Cumberland) at 64° and ten stations at 63°.

Cold air infiltrated the state on several occasions, and as discussed later, it was a rather windy month. Thus winter coats were certainly needed most mornings and during some afternoons. On seven days, the low temperature fell into the single digits at one or more locations. As usual, the northwest valley station in Walpack (Sussex) was the coldest or amongst the coldest. High Point Monument, at the highest location in NJ, often joined in. The 3rd saw the Monument station and Walpack fall to 4°, though in a rare happening, the High Point Mesonet (Sussex) station approximately 300 feet lower than the Monument site was coldest at 3°. Walpack fell to -1° on the 4th, with High Point Monument at 1°.

Walpack fell to 1° and High Point Monument to 2° on the 15th. The morning of the 16th was the coldest in January. Nineteen stations across NJ were 9° or colder, with Walpack down to -1° and Berkeley Township (Ocean) next coldest at 3°. The "mildest" locations this morning were Harvey Cedars (Ocean) and West Cape May (Cape May), each at 18°. Walpack was 2° and Pequest 7° on the 19th, Walpack 4°, and Wantage (Sussex) and High Point Monument 9° on the 21st (late in the evening). With several inches of fresh snow on the ground, the morning of the 22nd saw Walpack plunge to -7°, with Hope (Warren) and Kingwood (Hunterdon) down to 4°. Ten other stations dipped to between 5° and 9°. Without a snow cover, West Cape May only dropped to 29° on the 22nd, making for an impressive 36° spread of low temperatures registered across NJ.

Winds howled on quite a few January days. Fourteen days saw gusts equal or exceed 40 mph at one or more locations. While this most often occurred at higher northwest locations or along the coast, this is indicative of a windy month throughout NJ. Gusts on the 2nd reached 42 mph at High Point Monument (Sussex) and Stewartsville (Warren), and were between 30-39 mph at sixteen other stations. This was the first of four quite windy days during the month. High Point gusted to 45 mph and Harvey Cedars (Ocean) to 40 mph on the 3rd, and Wantage (Sussex) to 41 mph on the 4th and 45 mph on the 5th.

The 12th brought gusts to 44 mph at High Point Monument and 40 mph to Jersey City (Hudson). The 13th was second of the windiest days, with Atlantic City Marina (Atlantic) and Harvey Cedars reaching 51 mph, High Point Monument 48 mph, Bivalve (Cumberland) and Seaside Heights (Ocean) 44 mph, three stations at 40 mph, and nineteen locations between 30-39 mph. Not surprisingly, the lowest barometric pressure of the month was reached on this day, with many stations seeing readings as low as 29.20"-29.25". High Point Monument hit 41 mph on the 15th and Atlantic City Marina 40 mph on the 16th, these the two days of the month with the highest pressures of approximately 30.60". The third of the four windiest days occurred on the 18th, with High Point Monument gusting to 62 mph, Wantage to 46 mph, Stewartsville at 44 mph, Seaside Heights at 43 mph, and seventeen stations between 30-39 mph. The Monument reached 41 mph on the 20th.

A windy last week of January started with High Point Monument gusting to 44 mph on the 25th. This location reached a monthly maximum of 63 mph on the 27th, the 4th of the quartet of windiest January days. Wantage gusted to 55 mph, Seaside Heights to 54 mph, Harvey Cedars to 46 mph, and eighteen locations gusted between 30-39 mph. The Monument reached 43 mph on the 28th, when Wantage hit 40 mph, and the Monument topped out at 47 mph on the 30th. Fortunately, over the course of the month there were no reports of significant tree or structural damage, nor power outages associated with the frequent windy conditions.

January 2012 was a rather uneventful month on the precipitation side of the ledger. On average 2.80" of rain and melted snow fell. This is 0.68" below average and ranks as the 43rd driest January since 1895. There was a rather narrow range between wettest and driest locations. Central Jersey saw the most, with Lawrence Township (Mercer) leading the way at 4.00". Next was South Brunswick (Middlesex) with 3.93", and Rockaway (Morris) and Montgomery Township (Somerset), each with 3.91". Southern areas saw the least precipitation, with Upper Township (Cape May) only catching 1.52", Woolwich Township (Gloucester) 1.84", and Wildwood Crest (Cape May) 1.86". These and the following snow and rain reports were gathered from the 218 CoCoRaHS stations across NJ where observations were gathered on one or more days during the month. The monthly totals are generated from stations where reports covered all days with precipitation.

Monthly snowfall was a maximum of 6.7" in Jefferson Township (Morris), 6.1" in Blairstown (Warren), and 6.0" at two Oakland (Bergen) locations and in Vernon Township (Sussex). Most of the southern half of the state received less than 3" of snow, with some locations in the far south only seeing flurries or a light dusting. As seen below, there were several stations where National Weather Service spotters reported higher totals on the 21st alone than those listed above, but monthly totals are unavailable from these locations.

An evening thunderstorm at Belmar (Monmouth) kicked off 2012 in loud style, though only about 0.10" of rain fell at this and other locations. A few communities in northwest Jersey had a dusting of snow late on the 2nd into the 3rd with two Wantage (Sussex) observers reporting 0.1" and 0.2". The morning of the 5th saw southwest areas covered with as much as 0.5" of snow in Berlin Township (Camden) and 0.4" in Medford and Medford Lakes, each in Burlington County. The rather dry start to the new year continued on the 9th when another dusting of snow fell in the south. Pittsgrove (Salem) received 0.3".

The most notable rain event of the month occurred from the evening of the 11th through the morning of the 12th, punctuated by some thunder around dawn. Some light totals were added to this event by a pre-dawn squall line of rain on the 13th and later morning and afternoon snow squalls and flurries. Some minor flooding occurred along central Jersey streams and rivers as 1.97" fell in South Brunswick (Middlesex) and 1.91" in both Readington Township (Hunterdon) and Lawrence Township (Mercer). An inch to 1.50" of rain fell across most of NJ, with the heaviest from west-central locations to the northeast. Extreme south Jersey received 0.75"-1.00". High Bridge (Hunterdon), with 0.3", had the most snow on the 13th.

A mainly rain event late on the 16th into the afternoon of the 17th began with some sleet and snow amounting to as much as 0.5" in Hackettstown (Warren). Liquid totals for the event were greatest in south and central areas but only amounted to maximums of 0.56" in Lavallette (Ocean) and 0.44" in both Moorestown (Burlington) and Dennis Township (Cape May).

The only plowable snow event of the month occurred from the predawn hours of the 21st to midday. Southern areas saw a change over to rain that kept snow totals to no more than a dusting in Cape May County. South of I 195, 1.0"-2.0" fell, from I 195 to I 80 2-4" was measured, and north of I 80 mainly 4-6" accumulated. A few higher elevations in the north saw a bit more, with Ringwood topping the list at 8.0", followed by West Milford with 7.3" and Jefferson Township (Morris) at 6.7". The liquid equivalent for the storm was a rather consistent 0.25"-0.50" statewide, with the top value of 0.61" at both Lawrence Township (Mercer) and Eatontown (Monmouth). There were no major transportation or power issues associated with this event, not that there weren't some automobile accidents and flight delays.

The northern half of NJ saw 0.30"-0.40" of rain during the second half of the 23rd, while only a few hundredths fell in the southeast. Peapack-Gladstone (Somerset) had the most with 0.50" and Newton (Warren) received 0.44". The second wettest event of the month occurred on the 26th and 27th. The bulk of the precipitation fell as rain in the afternoon and evening of the 26th into the middle of the 27th. However there was a brief period of snow early on the 26th that accumulate to 0.3" in the townships of Verona (Essex), Bethlehem (Hunterdon), and Holland (Hunterdon). Event totals reached 1.05" at two Blairstown locations and 1.04" in Vernon Township (Sussex). There was a gradual decrease in totals from north to south, with less than 0.20" falling in the southeast.

For those seeking more detailed information on hourly, daily and monthly conditions, please visit the following Office of the NJ State Climatologist's websites:

NJ Weather and Climate Network
NJ Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network
NJ Snow Event Reports

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