March 2010 Overview

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
April 20, 2010 Update

Atmospheric conditions in March 2010 only added to the lore of what was already one of the most memorable winter seasons on record in New Jersey. Years, dare I say decades from now, many of us will still be comparing winters to the stormy one of 2009/2010! Actually, the first ten days of the month were rather tranquil. This was a blessing, for had the storms of mid and late March arrived prior to the majority of the record February snow melting away, the severe flooding that ensued might have been catastrophic. Read on to learn more about the wettest and 5th warmest March since statewide records commenced in 1895.

March precipitation across the Garden State averaged 9.39". This is 5.22" above normal and is by far the wettest March on record. The top ten wettest Marches include:

Rank Year Mar Prcp
1 2010 9.39"
2 1912 7.80"
3 1983 7.72"
4 1994 7.34"
5 1993 7.08"
6 1980 6.92"
7 1953 6.91"
8 1899 6.70"
9 1984 6.41"
10 2001 6.11"

Looking back over the past twelve months, precipitation (rain and melted snow) across New Jersey was 66.35". This is a record high amount that is 19.15" above the 1971-2000 mean. It shatters the previous twelve-month record of 61.38" established during the May 1938 - April 1939 interval. The southern climate division (south of and including Mercer and Middlesex counties, excluding a narrow coastal division) experienced the most anomalous wetness. The April 2009 - March 2010 total of 68.52" is 22.52" above average and more than 6" above the previous divisional maximum established from May 1938 - April 1939. The northern division averaged 62.61" for the past 12 months, which is 12.82" above average. This is the wettest April - March period on record but does not approach the record 67.24" in this division from August 1983 - July 1984. It ranks 21st of the 1372 twelve-month intervals since 1895.

Examining the month's precipitation in more detail, the 3rd was the only day of the first eleven with a barely-notable event. Several stations recorded between 0.10"- 0.16" of rain and melted snow. This was the only measureable snow episode of the month, with 1.5" falling in Hardyston (Sussex County) from the evening of the 2nd to morning of the 3rd. Rockaway (1.4") and Mount Olive (1.3"), both in Morris County, had the next highest totals. Most areas of the state saw, at best, a trace of snow during March.

The major storm of a stormy mid and late March began late on the 11th and did not completely wind itself down until late on the 15th. When all was said and done, a state high 7.97" of rain had fallen in one gauge in Long Hill Township (Morris) with 6.96" in another one in that community. Franklin Township (Somerset) received 6.36", while 38 of the 149 CoCoRaHS stations that reported the multi-day event caught from 5.00"-5.99" and 46 reported 4.00"- 4.99". The heaviest rains of the event fell on the 13th, when New Brunswick (Middlesex) received 4.77", Charlotteburg (Passaic) 4.74" and Basking Ridge (Somerset) 4.62". West Cape May (Cape May) was the "dry" spot that day, with only 1.08". Statewide the rainfall on the 12th-13th ranked as the 37th largest two-day rain storm in over a century. More impressive was the fact that this was the only one of the top 50 such events to occur between the months of December and March. Clearly, an unseasonable, rather unprecedented flow of tropical moisture reached NJ. Making matters worse was the slow-moving nature of the storm, which essentially became stalled over the Mid Atlantic for multiple days, much like storms earlier in the winter and one to come later in the month.

The result of all of this rain falling on soils still wet from recently melted snows (actually higher elevations of north Jersey still had snow on the ground at the start, and a few areas even at the end, of this event) was near-record flooding in several river basins. In terms of discharge, the Raritan River at Bound Brook experienced its 6th largest flood since observations began in 1882 (1999, 2007, 1896, 1882, 1971 rank from 1st to 5th). Discharge from this event ranked as the 8th largest on the Passaic River at Little Falls dating back to 1810 (1904, 1810, 1865, 1945, 1936, 1984 and 1865 rank from 1st to 7th).

Adding insult to injury were the strong, persistent winds that accompanied the heart of this storm. The worst of the winds occurred in about an eight-hour period starting in the late morning of the 13th in the south and moving north though the afternoon and into the evening. The maximum gust was 72 mph at the Atlantic City Marina (Atlantic). Three stations reported gusts of 65 or 66 mph and four stations gusted between 50 to 59 mph. Extensive tree damage occurred, with two fatalities resulting from a falling branch in Teaneck (Bergen) and almost 500,000 customers losing power raging from for a short period of time to upwards of a week. This was the largest storm-related outage on record in New Jersey. Overall wind damage may not have been exceeded since Tropical Storm David impacted the state in September 1979.

Close on the heels of the major mid-month storm came heavy rains, at times accompanied by lightning, during the evening of the 22nd into the morning hours of the 23rd. The southern half of the state had under an inch, while Kinnelon (Morris) received 3.07". Other hefty totals included 2.84" in Wantage (Sussex) and 2.81" in Boonton (Morris). The southeast corner of the state was brushed by another storm on the 26th, with Cape May Courthouse (Cape May) receiving 1.05".

In most Marches the storm from late on the 28th to early on the 31st would have been the event of the month. This was yet another long-lived storm that dropped copious amounts of rain throughout NJ. Top totals included the Monmouth County communities of Red Bank (5.11"), Shrewsbury (4.84") and Eatontown (4.77"). A total of 12 of 152 CoCoRaHS reports were between 4.00" and 4.99", while 87 stations received between 3.00" and 3.99".

When all was said and done and 139 CoCoRaHS stations were surveyed, 35 gauges caught more than 10.00" in March. Top honors went to one Long Hill Township (Morris) station with 13.74" (another received 12.42"). Jefferson Township (Morris) received 12.48" and Kinnelon (Morris) 12.25". The "driest" stations for the month included the Warren County townships of Washington and Knowlton with 6.14" and 6.23" respectively. Only four other stations had totals between 6.24" and 6.99".

No other March days had winds approaching those of the 13th; however gusts equaled or exceeded 40 mph at one or more stations on thirteen other days. Maxima on these days included 48 mph at High Point Monument (Sussex) on the 1st, 44 mph at Harvey Cedars (Ocean) on the 3rd, 48 mph at Wantage (Sussex) on the 6th, 40 mph at High Point Monument on the 8th, 41 mph at Seaside Heights (Ocean) on the 12th, 44 mph at High Point Monument on the 14th, 48 mph at the Monument and Wantage on the 23rd, 54 mph at the Monument on the 24th, 42 mph at the Atlantic City Marina (Atlantic) on the 25th, 40 mph at the Marina and Harvey Cedars on the 26th, 49 mph at Bivalve (Cumberland) on the 28th, 49 mph at Wantage on the 30th and 41 mph at Wantage on the 31st.

The average temperature in March was 45.9°, which is 4.9° above average and the 5th warmest on record. The top 10 mildest Marches include:

Rank Year Mar Temp
1 1945 49.5°
2 1921 48.7°
3 1946 47.7°
4 1903 47.1°
5 2010 45.9°
6 2000 45.8°
7 1977 45.5°
8 1973 45.4°
9 1936 44.9°
10 1898 44.7°

The warmest temperatures of the month occurred from the 18th-21st. The first 70° day of the season on the 18th saw nine stations max out at 70° or 71°. Three stations reached 74° on the 19th. Only near-coastal areas and northwest hills were under 70°, and as low as 64° at Atlantic City Marina (Atlantic) and Harvey Cedars (Ocean). Similar conditions prevailed on the 20th, with seven stations reaching 76° and Harvey Cedars the coolest at 63°. Only the southern interior exceeded 70° on the 21st, with a monthly maximum of 79° recorded at Sicklerville (Camden), while Atlantic City Marina and Harvey Cedars only reached 55°. The warmth and low humidity contributed to a 500 acre fire in Barnegat Township (Ocean) on the 20th-21st. While surprising to many, those who know the Pinelands in spring are aware of how quickly conditions may become tinder dry. The last mild day of the month was the 25th, with Cherry Hill and Sicklerville in Camden County reaching 72°.

The only March morning with all reporting stations at or below 32° was the 6th, when both Walpack (Sussex) and Pequest (Warren) dropped to 17°. The only other morning with temperatures in the teens was the 27th, when High Point (Sussex) fell to 17° and only coastal stations stayed just above the freezing mark. Berkeley Township (Ocean) fell to 20° on the 28th.

What a month! What a fall and winter! Major storms brought heavy rain and/or snow, strong winds, river and coastal flooding and beach erosion occurred on September 10-11, October 15-16, November 11-13, December 19-20, February 5-6, 9-10, 25-26, and March 12-15 and 28-30. Coastal and inland southern areas bore the brunt of most of these events until late February, when northern reaches took top honors. As spring arrives suffice it to say that ground water levels are near or exceeding record high levels, rivers are flowing briskly and reservoirs are brim full.

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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