A Rather Tranquil Month: March 2008 Overview

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
April 1, 2008

Despite a wealth of windy days, March 2008 will be best noted for a lack of active weather. While there were several rain events that brought rivers to bank full or even a bit beyond, statewide precipitation totaled 3.79", or 0.38" below the long-term average. This places the month dead center (57th wettest/58th driest) since statewide records commenced in 1895. As has commonly been the case this past year, the northern counties had the largest positive anomalies (2-3" in the northwest) while the extreme southern counties came in about 1" below average. This persistent division has resulted in 12 month surpluses of 10-12" (120-125% of average) north of route 78, an excess of about 2" between 78 and route 195 and deficits of 1-3" south of 195, rising to 4" (90% of average) in Cumberland and Cape May counties.

Temperatures were just a bit above normal in March. The 41.8° average is 0.8° above normal and ties this March with three others (1964, 1974 and 2006) as the 37th warmest. On several occasions afternoon temperatures reached into the upper 50s and to mid 60s in all but coastal areas and higher elevations. Only the colder northwest valleys and higher elevations saw lows drop into the teens a few times. Perhaps the most interesting day was the 29th, when sunshine south of a front that was draped across the middle of the state sent temperatures up to 76° at Woodbine, Cape May County. Meanwhile, the high for the day was only 36° at cloudy High Point, Sussex County!

Snowfall was practically non existent in March. Aside from the light snow that fell at some locations on the evening of February 29th into the early morning of the 1st, only a few flurries or an occasional dusting occurred during the month. While a bit of April snow can't be ruled out anywhere, as predicted in the November summary report, this snow season will be a below normal one across most of the state. An active La Niña event was already underway in the fall and was expected to and did last through the winter. History shows that when this tropical Pacific hydrothermal anomaly is underway its influence on North American atmospheric circulation is such that snowstorms rarely occur in New Jersey. In this "textbook" NJ La Niña winter, storms consistently moved through the Ohio Valley and into the St. Lawrence Valley, most often leaving NJ on the warm, eastern flank of precipitation events. Still, on 14 occasions at least 2 inches of snow fell at one or more reporting sites in the state, however most were small events and none could be considered to be very disruptive. Thus this will make 9 of the last 10 La Niña winters since 1950 with below average snowfall in New Brunswick (this year 9.9" or about 16" below average), which is a good indicator for most of NJ. An interesting exception to this, at least this past winter, is the average of 50-60" of snow that has fallen (to date) in the northwestern corner of the state at elevations exceeding 1000 feet. Temperatures were just below the freezing point for long enough periods that enough minor to moderate events added up to this hefty total. Meanwhile in the "lowlands", it was just a bit too warm for much, if any, snow to fall.

Past Climate Summaries