LBI Arts Foundation Launches Online Weather Station 

Nov 15, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences recently launched an online weather station, giving area residents much more localized information than they would find on other sites. Rick Bushnell, who heads the foundation’s science committee, said the station grew out of its “marshcam,” which began operating in the spring. Streaming live 24 hours a day, the camera overlooks  21 acres of preserved salt marsh extending out behind the Foundation, capturing daily and seasonal changes to the wetlands area and habitat.

“It can capture storm fronts coming over the bay, or show how the area floods during certain weather conditions,” he said. “It can also capture wildlife. It is a great educational tool.”

Bushnell said the marshcam is accessible by logging onto lbifoundation.org, and then clicking on “science” at the top of the home page. Just below to the right of the marshcam video is a link to the weather station. The page displays current conditions, including temperature, dew point, humidity, precipitation rate and accumulations, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, and sunrise and sunset times among other data.

While it is not equipped with radar, it has a “mapbox” that indicates the type of precipitation, whether it be rain, mixed or frozen.

“The Foundation station will offer data similar to NOAA, the Weather Channel and other sites, but what we have will be much more local conditions,” he said. “We’re not involved in weather conditions in Philadelphia or other parts of New Jersey. We’re strictly concerned with weather conditions on the Island.”

Bushnell said setting up the station cost the foundation approximately $10,000.

“We got that mostly through grants,” he said, adding that the Foundation also partnered with the Weather Underground forecasting program.

The Foundation promoted the new data station at a Nov. 11 weather workshop featuring Jonathan Carr, founder and operator of WeatherNJ.com. Carr said he uses data from the LBIF station as part of his weather forecasts.

Carr gave a basic primer on weather forecasting, noting the difference between weather and climate: “Weather is the day-to-day state of the atmosphere. Climate is weather conditions covering a longer period of time.”

He said local forecasts often refer to cold and warm fronts as major factors in shaping weather conditions. He said a cold front is a transition zone where an air mass is replacing a warmer air mass, and they  generally move from northwest to southeast.

“The air behind is noticeably colder and drier than the air ahead of it,” he said. “Warm fronts often approach from the southwest, bringing in warmer and more-humid air.”

Carr said that during hot spells in the summer, sea breezes bring relief, “but during the winter, it works in the opposite way, as the breezes bring warmer air. That’s why you sometimes have rain on the Island and snow on the mainland.”

Carr said that during the summer, thunderstorms moving west to east usually weaken before they reach the shore. “They lose energy when passing over the Appalachian Mountains.”  

Carr said snow usually hits the Island during northeast storms.

”If you see the wind direction change from northeast to north northeast, that usually means a changeover to snow,” he said. “The nor’easter season has started and usually lasts until April.”

He noted that from December 2009 to January 2011, Ocean County experienced six major snowstorms. 

In looking at major weather disasters hitting the Jersey Shore, people often think of the March 1962 storm and Superstorm Sandy.

“The 1962 storm lasted three days and lingered over five high tide cycles,” said Carr. “Sandy would have stayed out over the ocean, but energy from a trough pulled it in inland.”

He said that in 1821, a storm equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane struck Cape May.

“Much of the Jersey Shore area wasn’t built up then,” he said. ”If that storm hit today, it would have been by far the costliest in New Jersey.”  

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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