February 2010 and Winter 2009/2010 Overview

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
March 6, 2010

February Overview

If you recall, January's narrative was entitled "A Rather Unremarkable Month". How inappropriate that title is for February 2010! This month will long be remembered for the record-breaking amount of snow that fell on the Garden State. Unfortunately, snow records are not lengthy or complete at most locations around the state, but I am confident in stating that most locations established new monthly snowfall records for any winter month in at least the past 130 years. Monthly reports at four stations are being scrutinized to determine if one of them will be certified as a state monthly snowfall record, exceeding the 50.1" reported in Freehold (Monmouth County) in February 1880 (source: Ludlum's NJ Weather Book).

The preliminary February average temperature was 30.9°, which is 2.0° below normal and ranks as 48th coldest of the past 116 years. All the storminess kept minimum temperatures from plummeting too low and maximum temperatures from rising too high. On six mornings (February 1, 6-9 and 13) at least one location fell below 10°. The lowest was 4° at Piney Hollow (Gloucester) on the 8th (thanks to a deep, fresh snowpack) and the coldest morning statewide was the 7th, with several locations at 5° and West Cape May (Cape May) the "warmest" at 19°. Sicklerville (Camden) reached 50° on the 21st for the warmest state maximum of the month. Most daily highs were in the 30°s and 40°s, with the 6th the coldest day when only West Cape May exceeded the freezing point. High Point Monument (Sussex) had a monthly maximum of 36°, the coldest such value in NJ.

High Point Monument and Wantage (Sussex) maintained their windy ways in February. On seventeen days wind gusts were 40 miles per hour or greater at one or both of these locations. Seven of those days saw the maximum gust at Wantage exceed 50 mph, including gusts of 66 mph on the 25th and 60 mph on the 26th. Five days saw gusts exceed 40 mph along the coast, including maximums of 49 mph at Seaside Heights on the 25th and 26th. These latter two days, in the midst of the rain and heavy snow that pounded NJ, were the overall windiest of the month.

Now to the main event, February's rain and snow. Total precipitation (rain and melted snowfall) for the month was 5.31", making this the 7th wettest February since statewide records commenced in 1895 (see table below). This is 2.35" above normal. Note how the 5th through 9th ranked months lie close to one another, thus this year's rank may change once all data are received. Most locations received 4-6" of precipitation, while some south Jersey spots exceeded 8".

Rank Year Feb Prcp
1 1896 6.72"
2 1902 6.18"
3 1899 6.01"
4 1939 5.60"
5 1971 5.36"
6 1915 5.32"
7 2010 5.31"
8 1979 5.30"
9 1900 5.25"
10 2008 5.13"

February snowfall totals throughout NJ exceeded 30". Only a few southern coastal locations received just under this mark. Four stations reported totals exceeding the 50.1" state record monthly total. These include 62.6" at West Milford (Passaic), 59.4" in Vineland (Cumberland), and 50.4" at both Sparta (Sussex) and High Point (Sussex). Daily records for these locations are being obtained by the State Climate Office. Observations for this month and months past will be evaluated, including comparing them to neighboring stations. Observers will also be asked to provide information on their measurement practices. Should the ONJSC be confident that the record has been exceeded, the National Climatic Data Center will be informed and they will pass final judgment.

Six storms during the month deposited at least several inches of snow on a portion of NJ, and five of those saw more than 10" measured at one or more locations. The most benign was the first event on the 2nd-3rd, when 1-4" fell across the state, the 4.0" maximum being observed in Tewksbury (Hunterdon). See station reports for this and every other event on the Winter 2009-2010 Snow Totals page.

Several days later, a powerful storm buried the southern half of the state. On the 5th-6th over a foot of snow fell south of Rt. 195. A rather pronounced precipitation boundary resulted in snowfall totals decreasing rapidly northward through central NJ, with little or no precipitation making it north of the Rt. 78 corridor. Observers in nine south Jersey counties reported at least 15.0", with some stations in seven of these counties receiving more than 20.0". Maximum reports from these counties include:

County Location Storm Total
Atlantic Hamilton Township 24.5"
Burlington Palmyra & Willingboro 21.0"
Camden Waterford 27.0"
Cape May Woodbine 22.0"
Cumberland Vineland 24.2"
Gloucester National Park 28.5"
Monmouth Freehold 15.0"
Ocean Beachwood 19.0"
Salem Pittsgrove 24.0"

Melted snowfall from this storm totaled from 1-3" in south Jersey, with Hammonton (Atlantic) reporting 3.10".

Close on the heels of the big southern storm was one that landed its greatest punch on the central part of NJ on the 9th-10th. 12-19" fell in this area, with stations in twelve counties reporting more than 15.0". Some rain mixed in with the snow in the southern quarter of the state keeping snowfall totals below 5" in coastal areas, while totals near a foot were reported in portions of the inland south. Once again, less precipitation made it to the northern quarter, where snowfalls totaled 7-15". Maximum reports from the counties with greater than 15.0" include:

County Location Storm Total
Burlington Pemberton 18.0"
Camden Blackwood, Cherry Hill, and Stratford 17.0"
Gloucester Mantua Township 17.0"
Hunterdon Kingwood 18.0"
Mercer Ewing 18.7"
Middlesex Edison 17.2"
Monmouth Morganville 17.4"
Ocean Bricktown 18.0"
Somerset Hillsborough 17.6"
Sussex Sparta 15.0"
Union Westfield 17.5"
Warren Greenwich Township 15.1"

Rain and melted snowfall from this storm again totaled 1-3" in central and south Jersey, with Hammonton (Atlantic) reporting 3.32".

A modest storm impacted NJ on the 15th-16th. Accompanied by some rain, areas south of Rt. 195 received less than 2" of snow, with as much as 0.66" of rain and melted snow in Hamilton Township (Atlantic). Snowfall accumulations ranged from 2-4" between Rt. 195 and Rt. 80. North of Rt. 80, generally 4-7" fell. The highest amounts were reserved for the northern Highlands, with 10.5" reported in West Milford (Passaic), 8.0" in Highland Lakes (Sussex) and 7.5" in Vernon Township (Sussex).

The "warmest" storm of the month saw rain fall throughout most of the state. Rain and melted snow totaled as much as 2.96" in Belmar (Ocean) and 2.90" in Woodbine (Cape May). Totals tapered to 1-1.5" in central NJ and close to an inch further north. At its onset, light accumulations of snow were observed in central and northeastern areas. Only the northwest corner on NJ saw appreciable snow, with 4" or more falling in five counties. County maximum totals in that region include 4.8" in Bethlehem (Hunterdon), 6.2" in Randolph (Morris), 6.3" at West Milford (Passaic), 11.4" in Wantage (Sussex), and 7.0" in Knowlton Township (Warren).

The most powerful storm of the month brought excessive amounts of windblown snow to the northern third of the state on the 25th-26th. Some occasional light snow lingered throughout the NJ on the 27th and 28th, as the area of deep low pressure stalled over the northern Mid Atlantic region. The central spine of southern NJ received 8-10", while elsewhere near the coast and up the Delaware River toward Camden saw 2-5". Central NJ received 8-12", while all of the northern third of the state received more than a foot, with unconfirmed reports of over 30". Maximum reports from the nine counties with greater than 15.0" include:

County Location Storm Total
Bergen Tenafly 21.4"
Essex Bloomfield 16.0"
Hudson Secaucus 18.5"
Hunterdon Holland Township 19.9"
Morris Jefferson Township 22.6"
Passaic West Milford 28.0"
Sussex Montague 26.5"
Union Fanwood 17.3"
Warren Knowlton Township 18.0"

These totals only included reports for the first two days of the event, as many National Weather Service spotters did not add the rather small additional totals of the 27th-28th to their reported totals. The liquid equivalent of the snow in north Jersey was in the 1.50-3.00" range. Less precipitation fell in central and southern locations, mainly from 0.50-1.50".

It was difficult to measure snow during this storm due to the blowing and drifting in many areas. Also, due to the rapid settling or even melt of initial snow (snow continued falling at temperatures at or slightly exceeding freezing during the daylight hours of the 25th), accurate totals were difficult to obtain. It is a credit to the NWS spotters and NJ CoCoRaHS observers that close to 200 storm totals were received for this event as well as others during this tumultuous winter. Never before has New Jersey been better monitored!

This month's storms wrecked havoc on transportation, utility, commerce and educational sectors. Many communities have exhausted snow removal budgets, road salt was in short supply at times and potholes are becoming an ever-deepening menace in recent weeks. The three largest storms of the month wrecked havoc on power lines. Tens of thousands of customers lost power in southern NJ early in the month and in the north late in the month. Businesses were at times forced to close or curtail hours (the exception being snow plowing concerns!) and many school districts have exceeded their allotment of snow days.

Winter 2009/2010 Overview

Statewide, the preliminary average temperature for the winter (December-February) was 32.4°, which is 0.6° below normal and ranks as the 51st warmest of the past 115 winters. That may seem odd, given that it was below average yet above the median (middle value of the 115), however this skewness is often found in climate records. While on several occasions the minimum temperature fell below zero at a few locations, overall this was not a bitter winter. Nor was it marked by pronounced intervals of mild conditions, although the last half of January was quite a bit above average.

The major story of this winter was precipitation, be it wet or white. The preliminary precipitation (rain and melted snowfall) for the three months totaled 16.38". This is 5.78" above normal and places the 2009-2010 winter as 3rd wettest. Below are the top 10 wettest:

Rank Season Winter Prcp
1 1978-1979 19.32"
2 1914-1915 16.97"
3 2009-2010 16.38"
4 1948-1949 16.13"
5 1901-1902 16.01"
6 1957-1958 15.97"
7 1902-1903 15.19"
8 1977-1978 14.96"
9 1936-1937 14.83"
10 1972-1973 14.07"

January was on the dry side, but was sandwiched between the wettest December and 7th wettest February on record. While the majority of the winter total fell as rain, for New Jersey an unusually high percentage fell as snow. The record book is likely not yet closed on seasonal snowfall (first flake during the fall to last in the spring). However the southern half of NJ has already received more snow than in any previously recorded season. Totals in the 60-80" range are common. Central and northern regions remain two to four feet below record amounts, having received 50-60". Thus far this snow season, a single storm has deposited at least 10" on a portion of NJ on seven occasions. Remarkably three of those events have seen more than 20" accumulate in spots. The latter has likely not occurred in over a century, if not much longer. More will be reported on seasonal snows in the March and April narratives.

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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Past Climate Summaries