September 22, 2019 | 69° F

Rutgers 'rains' in award for 50 years of weather tracking

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Students such as Max Hazzon, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, wake up early every morning to collect weather data at 8 a.m. and send it over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration database. It is also made available on the Rutgers weather website for people to view.

Ever wonder how much rainfall Rutgers accumulates throughout the year? The University was recently awarded for its commitment toward tracking 50 years worth of continuous weather observations.

The National Weather Service awarded the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) and Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) in recognition of those who volunteer their efforts and time to input daily local weather observations in a database available to anyone interested in learning about the region’s climate. 

Anthony Broccoli, chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences and co-director of Rutgers Climate Institute, manages the station alongside a group of undergraduate students who work with him.

Every day, data is collected at 8 a.m. and sent over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration database. It is made available on the Rutgers Weather Website to anyone interested and includes the high and low temperatures, precipitation in the last 24 hours, snowfall, soil temperatures and amount of evaporation, according to

The station is maintained largely by student volunteers who strive to make weather observations every day. Under Broccoli’s supervision, they have not missed a day. 

Broccoli said this award is a culmination of their efforts and those of past station employees. But, despite recent recognition for the last 50 years worth of weather observations at Rutgers, the station’s history spans much farther back. 

David Robinson, a distinguished professor in the Department of Geography and New Jersey state climatologist, said the station dates to the 1900s and recently received recognition after being moved back and forth between the greenhouses on Cook campus to the Rutgers Gardens where it now resides. 

Each time it was moved, the station was assigned a new national number, effectively rewriting its history book. Despite having a century worth of recorded weather observations, the station is considered to have existed for only 50 years, Robinson said.  

Since weather observations started at Rutgers approximately a century ago, their focus has shifted. 

Steve Decker, director of the Meteorology Undergraduate Program in the Department of Environmental Sciences, said they were initially focused on agriculture back when the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences was still called the College of Agriculture, and have since expanded to measure air quality.

Tools used to collect this data have changed very little throughout the decades, Broccoli said. If there are changes in the weather, it is not coming from a change in instruments, but from the weather itself.

Observing the weather for about a century can lead to records of extreme occurrences. Decker said New Brunswick had reached temperatures of 105 degrees Fahrenheit twice in July of both 2010 and 2011 and had a snowstorm of 26.9 inches — the most ever observed from one storm.

These occurrences are rare and met with a gradual temperature increase.  

“New Brunswick has been warming, and so temperatures today are roughly 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were a hundred years ago,” Broccoli said.  

Leonard Tan

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