State Climatologist: 2018 Saw a Wet New Jersey

Jan 16, 2019

The rain that fell on New Year’s Eve was a fitting conclusion to 2018, which was the wettest year on record for New Jersey, according to David Robinson, state climatologist from Rutgers University. He recorded a statewide average of 64.09 inches of precipitation, breaking the 63.95-inch mark set in 2011. Robinson said 10 of the 12 months in 2018 showed above-average precipitation.

“It wasn’t one big month, one big event that jacked up totals,” he said. “One of the big stories out of this is that the rainfall was spread out over the entire year. The distribution of annual precipitation totals around New Jersey was quite uniform, with all counties, on average, receiving between 60 to 70 inches.”

He said March was especially wet, as New Jersey was hit with four nor’easters in three weeks. Several storms in August caused flash flooding where rivers swelled and caused massive flooding problems. One particular event inundated the Greenbriar community in Brick Township when nearly 8 inches of rain fell. 

“The heavy rain is a combination of climate change and weather patterns that set up a perfect scenario for a wet 2018,” Robinson said. “Global warming evaporates more surface water, which leads to an atmosphere laden with more vapor.”

The climatologist said the excessive 2018 precipitation was associated with an atmospheric pattern that often delivered moisture-laden air from the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico northward into New Jersey and surroundings. This pattern involved a dip in the jet stream in the eastern United States.

“This occurred frequently and, when present, often persisted for weeks at a time,” said Robinson. “Thus any storms moving through the area had a rich source of moisture to tap, resulting in frequent wide-spread cool season rains and scattered intense summer deluges.”

He said New Jersey was not alone in 2018 when it came to receiving excessive precipitation.

“Most notably, the Mid-Atlantic and portions of the Southeast and Midwest experienced well above average amounts,” he said. “Other areas, including portions of the Southwest and even northern areas of New England and New York, experienced drier than average conditions during all or portions of the year.”

As 2019 commences, Robinson reported that reservoirs are full, rivers continue to run high, ground water levels are high and soils are saturated.

“While this is good news when considering water resources for now and the future start of the summer season, it leaves the area somewhat vulnerable to flooding should more excessive rain fall or a major snowpack develop and subsequently melt quickly.”

The average rainfall in South Jersey was even higher, as the National Weather Service in Mount Holly recorded 68.57 inches at its Atlantic City climate station.

“That’s 26 inches above normal,” said meteorologist Joe Miketta.

Miketta said the above-average participation was caused by prevailing south and east winds.

“That’s what brings the moisture,” he said. “Winds consistently north and west bring dryer air.”

During the summer, the state Department of Environmental Protection often issues drought advisories, recommending that people conserve water with reservoir levels being depleted.

“That didn’t happen this year; there was no need for it,” said Miketta.

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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