Snow and More Snow
January 2011 Overview

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
February 5, 2011

The new year started off with several mild days, which served to melt some of the massive amounts of snow that fell in the eastern half of NJ during the late December blizzard. Just when some thought we might be in for a more tranquil January, temperatures dropped and snow began to fly. By month's end, six snow events each delivered two or more inches of the white stuff to all or a portion of the state. In some locations, this month was the snowiest January on record. For instance, the 31.2" that fell in New Brunswick broke the record of 26.9" from January 1996. With 118 years of observations in this community, it is rather remarkable that their two snowiest months on record are February 2010 (37.4") and this month!

Through January, the snow season has delivered an average of 38.1" across NJ. This is the second greatest amount of snow to fall through January, based on records going back to the winter of 1894/95 (calculated using an average of observations from thirteen stations distributed around NJ). Only the 45.4" from January in the 1904/05 winter was greater.

Rain fell in some locations during several of the snow events, with only the storm on the 17th-18th remaining a predominantly rainy one. Totaling the rain and melted snowfall, an average of 3.87" of precipitation fell during the month. This is 0.07" below normal, but interestingly ranks as the 37th wettest January of the past 117 years. Harrison (Hudson County) with 5.34" received the most, followed by Howell Township (Monmouth) with 5.07", 4.81" at Moorestown (Burlington) and 4.79" in Red Bank (Monmouth). The least amount of precipitation fell in Egg Harbor Township (Atlantic) with 2.37", followed by 2.55" in Wantage (Sussex) and 2.69" in Middle Township (Cape May).

The first notable precipitation event of the month was on the 7th, when 4-6" of snow fell over the northeast corner of the state. Mahwah (Bergen) with 6.0" caught the most. Most of the remainder of the state saw 1-2", with coastal counties coming in under an inch. The next day saw another small system impact the state, only this time it was the southeast seeing the most snow, with 4-7" in most places and as much as 7.7" in Pomona (Atlantic). Snowfall tapered off to less than 2" in the north, with none in Bergen County, which had seen the most the day before.

A moderate-sized storm impacted NJ on the 11th-12th. The northern half saw 6-10" of snow fall, with the 10.0" at Freehold (Monmouth) and 9.8" in Garfield (Bergen) topping the list. Snow totals declined going south, with only about 2" in the southeast corner of the state. The aforementioned mixed precipitation event arrived late on the 17th and extended throughout the 18th. In the northern half of the state, 1-2" of snow (up to 3.0" in West Milford (Passaic)) changed to freezing rain and then plain rain. Rain and melted snow amounted to about 0.30-0.50" in the north. Only rain fell in the southern third, where about an inch of liquid precipitation fell.

It was not long until another snow event whitened NJ. Early on the 21st 4-5" accumulated in the northern third, 1-4" in the central third and less than an inch down south. Bethlehem Township (Hunterdon) reported 5.5", while Allamuchy (Warren) and West Orange (Essex) both topped out at 5.2".

The most powerful storm of the month started in the predawn hours of the 26th, tapering off early on the 27th. When all was said and done, greater than 10" of fresh snow covered most of central and northern NJ. Snow only amounted to 4-6" in extreme northwest Jersey and 2" in the far southeast. This storm did not rival the late December blizzard in terms of ferocity, as winds were generally light and impacts on NJ residents were not crippling. However in many a winter this would have been considered the event of the season. Table 1 shows the range of snowfall observations for this event in each county. The 19.5" in Rahway (Union) tops the list, followed by 18.9" in Newark Airport (Essex). The table also shows the largest January totals by county. They range from 9.3" in Woodbine (Cape May) to 42.8" in Bethlehem Township (Hunterdon).

County 1/26-27 Range Monthly Maximum
Atlantic 2.0 - 11.3" 20.7"
Bergen 7.9 - 16.6" 37.4"
Burlington 8.0 - 15.6" 29.5"
Camden 10.1 - 13.4" 20.3"
Cape May 0.3 - 2.0" 9.3"
Cumberland 5.5 - 7.2" 10.3"
Essex 13.2 - 18.9" 37.4"
Gloucester 8.0 - 17.2" 13.5"
Hudson 16.0 - 17.0" 36.3"
Hunterdon 9.3 - 16.8" 42.8"
Mercer 11.2 - 18.0" 33.0"
Middlesex 13.1 - 17.7" 31.2"
Monmouth 6.5 - 16.5" 27.0"
Morris 8.1 - 18.5" 35.7"
Ocean 3.0 - 10.6" 19.7"
Passaic 6.3 - 19.0" 29.6"
Salem 4.0 - 6.5" 12.4"
Somerset 11.5 - 18.5" 35.2"
Sussex 4.0 - 8.9" 25.0"
Union 16.5 - 19.5" 40.3"
Warren 7.0 - 11.7" 27.3"

Table 1. Minimum and maximum snowfall totals (in inches) at observing sites in the 21 NJ counties for the storm on January 26th-27th (left column). See a complete listing of snowfall reports here. Maximum monthly snowfall reported at a station in each county (right column).

It was a cold month across the Garden State. This is not surprising given that the jet stream often dipped to our south, permitting cold air to pour into NJ. Also the refrigerating influence of the persistent snow cover over most of the state contributed to this being the 25th coldest January on record. The mean temperature was 27.3°, which is 3.3° below normal.

As in December 2010, the 1st of January was the warmest day of the month. Tom's River (Ocean) reached 61°, with Oswego Lake (Burlington), Howell (Monmouth) and Wall (Monmouth) reaching 60°. The warmth continued into the 2nd, with Hammonton (Atlantic) and Woodbine (Cape May) making it up to 57°. The only other time the thermometer reached 50° during the remainder of the month was on the 18th, when four southern stations reached this mark. There were four days during January where the maximum temperature failed to reach the freezing point anywhere in NJ. This included the 8th, 22nd, 23rd and 24th, with the 22nd being the coldest.

Minimum temperatures fell into the single digits above zero or lower at one or more Jersey location on fourteen days. As is often the case, a valley station influenced by cold air drainage from the surrounding hillsides led the way. Pequest (Warren) was the coldest location on twelve days, first falling to 3° on the 7th, when Kingwood (Hunterdon) reached 6°. The 8th saw Pequest at 0° and Basking Ridge at 2°. Pequest was 7° on the 10th and 6° on the 11th, also joined at that value by Berkeley Township (Ocean) on the 11th. Pequest and Kingwood fell to 3° on the 13th. It was -3° at Pequest and 0° in Basking Ridge and at Piney Hollow (Gloucester) on the 14th, and -1° at Pequest and 1° at three other locations on the 15th. High Point Monument fell to 7° on the 17th and 6° on the 21st. The coldest surge of the month saw the temperature fall to -8° at Pequest on the 22nd, with five other locations from -2° to -6°. Pequest fell to -14° on the 23rd, with Hope (Warren) down to -10° and ten other stations between -1° and -8°. The coldest morning of the winter thus far was the 24th, with Pequest again at -14°, -9° at three stations and eleven others subzero. West Cape May (Cape May) was the "warmest" location in the state, with a minimum of 11°. The end of the month saw Pequest fall to 9° on the 28th and -2° on the 31st. Kingwood and Hope each reached 0° on the 31st.

Wind gusts were 40 mph or greater on ten days in January. As usual, the Wantage and High Point Monument stations in Sussex County often topped the list. Wantage gusted to 44 mph on the 2nd. The 9th through 14th saw Wantage gust to at least 40 mph each day, with High Point exceeding this mark on four of them. This included gusts of 53 mph at Wantage on the 9th and 10th and a 50 mph gust on the 13th. Later in the month, wind gusts reached 42 mph at Bivalve (Cumberland) on the 21st, 42 mph at Harvey Cedars on the 23rd and 50 mph at the Atlantic City Marina on the 26th.

Polar high pressure systems brought pressures up to the 30.50-30.55" range across NJ on the 24th and 31st. Lowest pressures were observed on the 7th and 8th, falling to about 29.35".

Each of the snow events in January continued to deplete the snow removal budgets of communities and the state. Just where to put all of the snow became an issue later in the month, particularly in central and northeastern areas where seasonal totals have been the greatest. The storms closed schools on several occasions, leaving some districts already exceeding allotted snow days for the season. At months end, the amount of water locked up in the snow pack was as much as 3" in some locations. This raises the threat of flooding later in the season as the snow eventually melts. This will have to be monitored very carefully. And of course, with snow and ice so prevalent and the temperatures so cold, pot holes are beginning to grow on many roadways, certain to only become worse in the coming weeks.

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

Interested in receiving our monthly summaries at the end of each month? Send us your e-mail address here to join the mailing list.

Past Climate Summaries