Meteorologists talk weather, temperature trends
This past February is among the ten coldest Februaries in New Jersey in the last 14 decades, said David Robinson, a professor in the Department of Geography.
Temperatures are about 10 degrees below average this year, getting close to zero degrees Fahrenheit, he said. This does not account for windchill, which makes the apparent temperature feel more than 10 degrees below zero.
“This is indeed the coldest air we’ve seen in New Jersey in the last several decades,” Robinson said. “It’s quite likely to be the coldest February since 1979. Most (students) have never seen a February this cold in New Jersey.”
Some days saw temperatures more than 20 degrees below normal, said Justin Lamarche, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior via email.
The lowered temperatures are the result of a “dip” in the jet stream that passes over the United States, Robinson said.
The jet stream could be described as a “river of air” that directs weather systems, said Anthony Broccoli, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.
When this jet stream meanders, it can force warmer air away from the northeastern United States, he said. This air has been moving toward the Midwest.
This winter, like last winter, has been relatively mild in places like California, Robinson said. This contrasts with New Jersey, which saw twice as much snowfall than normal last year.
“What’s been most notable about the last two winters is the persistence of (this) jet stream over the eastern United States,” he said. “We believe this pattern is being driven in part by very mild sea-surface temperatures in the northern Pacific.”
These temperatures cause a bulge in the jet stream in the northwestern part of the nation, which Robinson said directly causes the dip seen in New Jersey.
The lower temperatures result in a noticeable wave pattern carrying polar air down to the country, he said. This pattern has been seen over the last two winters.
“It just shows how our climate is all very connected,” Robinson said.
Snow has been falling at about an average rate this year for a number of reasons, he said.
The dip in the stream is not as wide or as deep as it was last year, he said. This means New Jersey is located at the border of the fast-moving air.
Snowstorms are developing too far east as a result, which causes more snow in New England, he said.
Winter Storm Juno was predicted to drop up to two feet of snow on New Jersey. But the storm traveled north, leading to only a few inches in New Jersey, Robinson said.
The storm’s point of origin and path had a significant impact on which places it affected the most, he said.
Juno, along with the other major storms that have hit the area around Boston, have formed much too far east to reach New Jersey, Lamarche said. All of the snow that could have dropped on New Jersey instead hit New England.
A snowstorm coming up from the southeast would drop more snow on the state than one coming from the west, Robinson said.
“It’s just a matter of a storm track. It followed along the Arctic front across the northern plains,” he said. “When that storm hit the coastal waters it exploded into a big storm.”
This upcoming week would see temperatures up to ten degrees warmer than so far this month, Robinson said.
Only a few days could see above-freezing temperatures, Lamarche said. It will still be extremely cold outside and the average temperature will remain below normal.
Future Februarys are expected to be warmer than recent years due to greenhouse gases, Lamarche said.
While some studies show that there might actually be extreme temperature fluctuations in the future, more research needs to be done to reach this conclusion, he said.
The National Weather Service is predicting lower than average temperatures for March in New Jersey, Broccoli said. The western half of the country will continue to see higher temperatures than the eastern half.
March is still too far ahead to make any accurate predictions, he said.