A Split Personality: November and Fall 2008 Overview

Dr. David A. Robinson
New Jersey State Climatologist
Center for Environmental Prediction, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences/NJAES, Rutgers University
December 7, 2008

November Recap

November is one of several months where seasonal transitions are readily apparent. In the temperature department, November 2008 could serve as a poster child for such transitions. The first half of the month saw temperatures run approximately 5 degrees above average, while from the 16th on temperatures ran about 6 degrees below average. Overall, the preliminary statewide monthly mean of 44.0° was 0.9° below normal. This is very close to the 114 year median, being the 56th warmest or 58th coolest, and illustrates the non-normal distribution of November mean temperatures over the years.

The 1st and 15th were the warmest days, with temperatures close to or exceeding 70° in most areas. Hammonton (Atlantic County) maxed out at 75° on the 15th for the warmest observation of the month. Nighttime minimums remained in the 50s at many locations from the 5th-7th and on the 14th-15th, exceeding expected daily maximums for this time of the year. Cold air began to infiltrate NJ on the 16th, failing to relinquish its grip throughout the remainder of the month. The 22nd saw a morning low of 10° at Pequest (Warren). On the 23rd Walpack (Sussex) was in the single digits at 8°, while West Cape May bottomed out at a "balmy" 31°. Perhaps more interesting was the low of 13° in Berkeley Township (Ocean) on the 24th (coldest in NJ), while elsewhere in the county it only got down to 32° at Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island. Such is the moderating influence of the fall Atlantic waters, while just inland the Pinelands shiver. Another sign of the cold end of the month was the temperature at High Point failing to exceed the freezing mark from the 19th-23rd and maxing out at only 21° on the 22nd.

Rain and a bit of snow fell on multiple occasions during the month. As is often the case during the cooler portions of the year, precipitation totals were greater during the warm interval. For the month as a whole, the preliminary statewide average was 3.85", which is 0.14" above average and makes it the 41st wettest since 1895. This was one of the rare months over the past several years where the southern half of the state was wetter than the north. As a result, stream flow and ground water levels have improved and the southern counties have climbed out of the D0 (incipient drought) category on the National Drought Monitor map. Six southern counties were between 1" and 3" above average, with a number of locations receiving 5 or more inches of rain and melted snow. Little Egg Harbor Township in Ocean County topped the list at 6.06", with other hefty totals of 5.98" at Folsom (Atlantic), 5.93" at Lake Como (Monmouth), and 5.81" in Middle Township (Cape May).

On the dry side of the ledger were the 10 northernmost counties, where precipitation averaged 0.5" to 1.0" below normal. Readington (Hunterdon) received 3.44", while Hardystown (Sussex) had 3.34" and Hillsborough (Somerset) 3.47". Some of the wetter days of the month included the 13th, with 1.24" at Upper Deerfield (Cumberland), the 15th with 1.34" at East Hampton (Burlington), the 24th-25th with 1.03" at Point Pleasant (Ocean), and the 30th, when 1.58" fell at Sea Girt (Monmouth).

Light snow fell on several occasions during the last half of the month. Higher elevations in the northwest corner of the state received 1.0" on the 18th (High Point and Wantage, Sussex County) and High Point caught 1.5" on the 25th. Southern locations received a light covering on the 21st, with 1.3" in Pitman (Gloucester), 1.0" in Vineland (Cumberland), and 0.8" at both Estell Manor (Atlantic) and Sicklerville (Camden). The last morning of the month saw several tenths of an inch fall in northern and central areas and minor accumulations of freezing rain at the highest elevations. The frozen precipitation and subsequent rain created hazardous driving conditions as many travelers returned home or back to school at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Otherwise, the month was rather free of major weather-induced issues around New Jersey.

Fall Recap

The rains of Tropical Storm Hanna, the dry spell in October, two late October storms and a rather average November added up to a fall season of NJ precipitation that was somewhat above average. With 13.01" over the three months, there was a surplus of 1.64", making this fall the 30th wettest of the past 114 years. The major rainfall event of the season came early, with Hanna depositing 3-6" over most of the state on September 6. Fortunately, conditions had been dry enough prior to the event and rainfall was not too extreme, thus flooding was only of the nuisance variety.

Dry weather during the first three weeks of October resulted in several thousand acres of the Pinelands going up in flames, closing roads and some schools in the process. Just a week later came the largest October snowstorm in over 100 years of statewide record keeping. Nowhere do past records show more than 5" falling at any spot in the state during an October event. The snowfall this past October 28 accumulated to 14" at High Point, with several other spots at higher elevations in west central NJ receiving 10-12". Lower elevations in central NJ received from 1 to 10", and flakes flew down to Atlantic County. While not all areas of the state were hit, this still made for a record event that brought down fully-leaved trees, thus power lines as well. Approximately 80,000 customers lost power, some for up to three days.

September temperatures were more than 2° above normal. This anomaly countered the slightly below normal conditions in October and November to result in a seasonal average of 55.2°, which is 0.4° above normal. Fall 2008 tied with four other years as the 41st warmest since 1895. The last time NJ had two consecutive months with below average temperatures was September-October 2006. Ten times during the past two years there have been two (or more) consecutive months with above average temperatures.

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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