On the Cold Side, Along with "Nickel and Dime" Snow: January 2009 Overview

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
February 6, 2009

No one can dispute that the Garden State was in the heart of winter during the first month of 2009. While a major snow event failed to materialize, cold air and snow and ice events were in enough abundance to remind us that this is a state where it is worthwhile to keep ice skates and sleds at the ready.

Temperatures were on the cold side of normal throughout the majority of the month. The statewide average of 27.2° was 3.4° below the 1971-2000 average and ranks as the 25th coldest January going back to 1895. Only three Januaries have been colder since the early 1990s (1994, 2003, 2004). The absence of any protracted mild spells was noteworthy. On only two days did the maximum temperature exceed 50° somewhere in the state. The 23rd brought a 57° maximum to Eastampton (Burlington County), with most of non-coastal southern and central NJ above 50°. Only inland coastal areas broke the 50° mark on the 28th, including 54° in Mullica (Atlantic). On the other hand, cold mornings were in abundance. Subzero temperatures were recorded on six days at one or more stations. The morning of the 17th was the coldest, with Sussex (Sussex) down to -14°, and West Cape May (Cape May) at 12° the only station in NJ warmer than +10°. The 16th was the second coldest, with Walpack (Sussex) down to -12°. The temperature only rose above freezing at the High Point Monument station on 4 days, and single-digit temperatures above or below zero were experienced on 13 days. Meanwhile, the Atlantic City Marina station had 22 maximums above freezing and only one single digit (8°) morning.

Monthly precipitation (rain and melted snow) totaled 2.76" on average across NJ. This is 1.18" below normal, making it the 41st driest January of the past 115 years. The southern third of the state was wettest, with 3 to 3.5", which is very close to average. Central and northeastern areas received 2.5-3", or 0.5-1.0" below average. The north central and northwest counties were close to 1" below average, with about 2.5" falling. Lavallette (Ocean) with 4.57" just beat out Wall Township's (Monmouth) 4.48" for top honors. Greenwich Township, with 2.07", had the least. The wettest storm of the month occurred on the 6th-7th, with Wall Township receiving 3.23" and Buena Vista (Atlantic) 2.81". This event also brought a period of freezing rain to central and northern counties. The latter area saw about 0.10" of ice, while accumulations near 0.25" occurred in the north, with as much as 0.50" at higher elevations. The 27th-28th brought a 0.75-1.25" statewide total of rain, freezing rain and melted snow, with the exception of a bit less falling in coastal and southern counties.

As has been the case through the mid point of winter, January saw northern counties experience above-average snowfall, central reaches about normal totals and southern counties very little snow. Some 10-15" fell in the northern third of the state, 5-10" in central areas and less than 5" further south. As usual, High Point was the snow leader with 15.6" for January and 47.4" for the season. An inch or more of snow has been on the ground on 49 days at this location this winter, compared with just several days in the far south.

Five events brought greater than 2" snowfalls to one or more areas of the state. The 10th brought much of the north 2-3", with Blairstown (Warren) topping out at 3.4", while 1-2" fell in central areas and little or nothing further south. On the 15th, a few tenths to 2" fell in all but the south. Glen Rock (Bergen) received 2.1". A two-part event occurred on the 18th, with morning snows of 1-3" in the north (4.3" at High Point) and evening snows of an inch or less in the south. A day later, an afternoon/evening event brought 2-3" to central and northeastern counties, including a maximum 3.3" in Bloomfield (Essex). The final event on the 27th-28th brought a rather uniform 1.5-4" statewide, including a change over to freezing rain and then rain in most locations. West Milford (Passaic) and Lafayette (Sussex) took top honors with 4.0".

Each of January's frozen precipitation events brought some travel woes to NJ roads, rails and airports. However none were crippling or lasted too long. Even the freezing rain event on the 7th disrupted power to no more than 1000 customers. The cold brought concerns for those out of doors for extended periods, including an abduction that resulted in a woman experiencing frost bite. With ice of various thicknesses on state water bodies, extra care was needed. Unfortunately, there was at least one drowning death resulting from a fall through thin ice.

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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