June 18, 2019 | 68° F

New Jersey experiences topsy-turvy weather during Sept.

Georgetown Sheriff deputies check on motorists stalled along flooded Church Street in Georgetown, South Carolina October 4, 2015. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Through the past month, New Jersey residents have been worried over the possibilities of experiencing a drought and hurricane. The state was lucky to dodge both bullets, as both phenomena had the possibility of causing a lot of damage.

On Sept. 23, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection announced a water supply drought for the Northeast, Central and Coastal North regions of New Jersey. Their website requested residents of the three areas to help preserve water and lower the water demand.

The drought watch and water shortage were a direct result from the region receiving less than one half of the amount of rain usually expected over the last three months, said Anthony Broccoli, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

The unusually warm September also raised water demand at a time that it typically diminishes, and the lack of rain and high demand both contributed to declining reservoir levels around the state, according to the Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

Droughts are an occasional part of New Jersey climate, but a warming climate may cause stronger and longer droughts in the future, and these changes may be hard for the average person to notice, Broccoli said. 

In order to get rid of a drought, a region must return to regular rates of rain for a few months, Broccoli said. A singular strong storm would have negative effects on the area.

“When the soil is very dry, it can be difficult for heavy rain to penetrate, which can contribute to flooding,” Broccoli said. “The rains earlier this week have moistened the upper layers of the soil, but if the rains are heavy enough, there will be a risk of flooding regardless.”

The heavy rain presented itself as a possible problem in the form of Hurricane Joaquin, which many models early in the week saw making landfall between North Carolina and Connecticut. Joaquin became the second major hurricane of the season and influenced Gov. Chris Christie to declare a State of Emergency.

A Joaquin landfall would have caused large amounts of flooding and heavy winds, much like Hurricane Sandy did in 2012 to the region, Broccoli said. But he also stressed that future storms would need the right combination of strength and track for similar or even worse damages to occur.

There was a high uncertainty in the predicted paths for Hurricane Joaquin in the beginning of the week. This variance in paths was due to a number of closed circulations in the upper atmosphere disrupting the jet stream, said Steven Decker, director of the Meteorology Undergraduate Program.

“It appeared that one of these circulations, an upper-level cyclone over the Southeast, would draw Joaquin north and west into the East Coast in a way reminiscent of Sandy,” Decker said.

But by Thursday, there was a consensus that Hurricane Joaquin would stay off to sea and not make landfall on the Eastern seaboard. Decker said that two things have changed since earlier in the week that led to this conclusion.

“The cyclone in the southeast had not intensified as much as expected, and Joaquin has also moved further south and intensified much more than anticipated,” Decker said. “Each of these has diminished the influence of the cyclone on Joaquin’s path.”

Despite the dodged bullet in Joaquin, Broccoli still hopes to find out more about storms landing higher up the coast. Broccoli said that there have been other periods of time, such as the 1950s, when the Northeast was hit by an above average number of storms.

While it is expected that global warming will make hurricanes and other storms stronger, researchers are actively looking into whether or not it will also cause hurricanes to become a more likely event in the northeast, Broccoli said.

With many meteorologists predicting a harsher winter this year as well, students are preparing for the possibility of cancelled classes. After missing several days of class last year due to snow, many students already have a plan for the snow to come.

Shyam Patel, an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy second-year student, said he plans to have all class documents he needs saved offline, as well as to have a stock of food, coffee, and good winter boots in order to stay warm and healthy during a snowstorm.

Having just dodged two major bullets in the form of drought and a major hurricane, New Jersey has to be ready for more severe weather in the future, whether it be stronger nor'easters this winter, drier weather in the summer or stronger hurricanes in fall.

​Mike Makmur

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