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Rutgers professors weigh in on large number of tornadoes this year

<p>David Robinson, New Jersey state climatologist and distinguished professor in the Department of Geography, said unstable atmospheric conditions resulted in more tornadoes.</p>

David Robinson, New Jersey state climatologist and distinguished professor in the Department of Geography, said unstable atmospheric conditions resulted in more tornadoes.

This year, New Jersey has had the second-highest number of tornadoes in history, with nine tornadoes touching down on the Garden State, according to a University press release

The year with the most tornadoes was 1989, which had 17 tornadoes throughout the 12-month span, according to the release. 

“One wonders if more tornadoes might have occurred last week had the front come through during the middle of the day,” said David Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist and a distinguished professor in the Department of Geography, according to the release. “The 1989 episode represented a major shift in the atmospheric pattern across the U.S., much like during last week’s squall line.”

This past year has had unstable atmospheric conditions, causing squall line thunderstorms, which are lines of thunderstorms stacked together, according to the release. It is a squall line that typically causes tornadoes. 

The most recent tornado touched down in Harding, New Jersey, on Oct. 31, before piling across Chatham Township and Madison before ending in Florham Park, according to an article on NJ Advance Media. The tornado caused large trees to blow over, cars to be crushed and electrical wires to fall down. 

Strong winds across the state also caused damage to the Monmouth Jet Center in Wall Township, New Jersey, and New Jersey Route 34, which had to be partially shut down until the morning of Sunday, Nov. 3, according to the article. 

“Last week, we dodged a bullet in the sense that the storms came through overnight,” said Steve Decker, an associate teaching professor and director of the Meteorology Undergraduate Program in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “A few hours earlier, when conditions were a bit more favorable, an EF-2 tornado occurred in eastern Pennsylvania.”

Even though New Jersey has averaged approximately two tornadoes since 1950, this year’s high-number does have a positive spin, Robinson said, according to the release. 

“Fortunately, all of the tornadoes in New Jersey this year have been on the weak side, ranking as either EF0 or EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita scale,” Robinson said, according to the release. “This does not mean that there haven’t been numerous trees and power lines downed and some damage to structures. Fortunately, there have only been a few minor injuries and no fatalities from these storms. Dating back to 1951, the only tornado death in New Jersey was in 2003.”

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