A Chilly Start to Spring: March 2013

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
April 7, 2013

While the core of the winter season (December-February) averaged quite a bit milder than usual across New Jersey (see winter summary in the February narrative), the broader cool season began with a November that was cooler than average with above-average snowfall and ended with a cooler and snowier than average March, making for what seemed to be a long winter. Looking more closely at March 2013, the statewide average of 38.3° was 2.8° below the 1981-2010 average and ranked as the 37th coolest since 1895. What a difference a year makes, as March 2012 was 11.5° warmer than this year! Precipitation (rain and melted snowfall) averaged 3.05", which is 1.18" below average and the 36th driest on record. Snowfall averaged 5.2", which is 1.0" above average.

Chilly conditions were rather consistent during March, with only six days where one or more observing stations in NJ reached a maximum of 60° or higher. There was an absence of excessive cold, with lows falling into the teens in some locations on 12 mornings, yet most of the state dropping no lower than the 20°s at any point. Beginning with the cold lows, the 3rd and 4th both dawned with the NJWxNet High Point and High Point Monument stations (Sussex County) at 18° and 19°, respectively. Walpack (Sussex) was coldest at 19° on the 9th. The 10th was one of the three coldest mornings statewide in March. Pequest (Warren), Berkeley Township (Ocean), and Walpack fell to 19°, with a total of 23 of the 55 stations in the NJWxNet at 25° or colder.

On the 14th, High Point Monument reached 17°. This station was joined by Walpack at 15° on the 15th and the Monument site chilled to 16° on the 17th. The 18th was the second broadly cold morning, when Walpack plummeted to 13°, the coldest NJ temperature of March, and 20 stations dropped to 25° or lower. High Point Monument was 19° on the 21st and Walpack 16° on the 22nd. Pequest and Walpack fell to 19° on the 24th, when 26 locations were 25° or colder, thus the third cold day of the month. The teens were last felt at Walpack on the 27th when the low was 18°.

The first two 60° afternoons in March were the 9th and 10th, days with morning lows in the upper teens at a few locations. The 9th was the warmest day of the month, with ten stations reaching 61° and 21 others between 58° and 60°. Walpack had a low of 19° and high of 60° on the 9th. Cherry Hill (Camden) took top honors on the 10th at 61°. Cherry Hill reached 63° on the 11th for the warmest NJ temperature of the month, on a day when four other stations got to 62°. Mansfield (Burlington) was 61° on the 12th, the last time the 60° mark would be touched until the 30th. On that day, Mansfield reached 61° and six other stations 60°. Clayton made it to 60° on the 31st, ending a March that left most NJ residents wondering if their vision of warm spring days would ever arrive.

The aforementioned below-average precipitation in March was most keenly felt in central portions of the state, with Jefferson Township (Morris) only totally 2.02", followed by 2.05" and 2.08" at two Bernards Township (Somerset) stations, 2.16" in Readington (Hunterdon), and 2.27" at one of the CoCoRaHS stations in Franklin Township (Somerset). Coastal counties had closest to average precipitation, with a few locations coming in as much as an inch above normal. This included Lacey Township (Ocean) with 5.39", Linwood (Atlantic) 4.75", Egg Harbor Township (Atlantic) 4.71", and Brick (Ocean) and Berkeley Township (Ocean) each at 4.70".

The first notable precipitation of March occurred on the 6th. It was primarily a coastal event, with heavy rains in the southeast totaling as much as 1.64" at Wildwood Crest (Cape May) and 1.46" in Middle Township (Cape May). The inch plus southeast amounts tapered off to little or no precipitation north of the Route 1 corridor. Winds gusted over 60 mph along the coast (more on this later) and coastal flooding breached some dunes and covered roadways in some locations, making this the most impactful coastal event since Sandy.

The morning of the 7th into the afternoon of the 8th brought the largest snow event of the month to NJ. Rain and melted snow exceeded an inch in some northeast locations, tapering to little to no precipitation in the far southwest. Saddle Brook (Bergen) received 1.18" and Kearny (Hudson) 1.09". Snowfall was measured in every county, but concentrated its punch in the northeast into the higher elevations of northwestern NJ. Highland Lakes (Sussex) with 11.8" had the top total, followed by West Milford (Passaic) 11.5" and Oakland (Bergen) 10.5".

The predawn hours of the 12th into the morning of the 13th saw rainfall exceeding 0.50" in most locations. Over an inch fell in northwest counties, topped by 2.06" in Blairstown (Warren) and 1.75" at Randolph (Morris). A minor snow event brought 2.1" to Hardyston (Sussex) and 2.0" to Millstone Township (Monmouth) on the 16th. Falling during the daylight hours, not much accumulated on roadways. The most rain and melted snow that day fell in along and just to the south of the Route 195 corridor, with 0.40" in Howell (Monmouth) and 0.36" in Robbinsville (Mercer). The afternoon of the 18th through the morning of the 19th brought heavy rain to coastal counties and a plowable snow to the north. Lacey Township (Ocean) received 1.56" and Berkeley Township (Ocean) 1.41" of mainly rain. Three different counties accounted for the four largest snowfall totals; West Milford (Passaic) 6.5", Hawthorne (Passaic) 5.5", Oakland (Bergen) 5.4", and Butler (Morris) 5.2".

The morning of the 25th into the pre-dawn hours of the 26th saw coastal areas again collecting the most rainfall. Lacey Township (Ocean) received 1.28" and Linwood (Atlantic) 1.19". Totals tapered to under a half-inch inland of the NJ Turnpike, with little to no precipitation in the far northwest. A burst of snow occurred in the south during this episode, with seven stations in Atlantic, Cumberland and Gloucester counties reporting 3.0". March ended with rain during the afternoon and evening of the 31st. Coastal areas saw the most, with 0.76" at Manalapan (Monmouth) and 0.62" at Brick (Ocean). Most of the remainder of the state received a tenth to several tenths.

The northern third of the state saw both the most snowfall during March with 9.0" and the largest positive departure of +2.9". Central snowfall averaged 6.3" and was 1.4" above average and southern snowfall was 2.7", which was 0.2" below average. The four largest monthly totals occurred in four different counties, including West Milford (Passaic) 18.4", Hardyston (Sussex) 16.3", Oakland (Bergen) 15.9", and Jefferson Township (Morris) 15.0". There were four snowfall events during March where at least 2.0" accumulated at one or more locations, making for a seasonal total (November through March) of 17 such occurrences. A summary of seasonal snowfall will be included in the April narrative.

As is often the case during this climate transition time of the year, strong winds were rather common in March. On eleven days, winds gusted over 40 mph at one or more locations. The first such day was the 3rd, when High Point Monument (Sussex) gusted to 46 mph. The next day this location reached 50 mph, with Wantage (Sussex) up to 52 mph. The Monument got to 43 mph on the 5th, with Wantage at 42 mph. The 6th was the windiest day of the month, with Harvey Cedars (Ocean) gusting to 64 mph, Sea Girt (Monmouth) 61 mph, and Atlantic City Marina (Atlantic) 60 mph. Six other stations gusted to between 50-59 mph and 17 between 40-49 mph. A windy week concluded with Harvey Cedars up to 48 mph on the 7th and Wantage to 41 mph on the 8th.

High Point Monument reached 43 mph on the 12th and Dennis Township (Cape May) hit 41 mph. The 14th saw 51 mph at the Monument, 47 mph at Wantage, and 45 mph in Sea Girt. The Monument station reached 41 mph on the 15th. Later in the month, this station got up to 46 mph on the 23rd and Seaside Heights topped out at 42 mph on the 25th.

The highest barometric pressures of the month occurred on the 10th and 18th with most stations close to 30.40". The 25th saw the barometer bottom out at close to 29.40" for the lowest pressure of March.

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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