State Climatologist Predicts Warmer Than Average Summer

May 30, 2012 | Energy & Environment
David Robinson says he believes the summer of 2012 will have above average temperatures.

With the recent warm weather, many are wondering if it indicates a larger warming trend. New Jersey State Climatologist David Robinson said warmer weather has been recorded in New Jersey since the 1970s and predicts this summer will be warmer than average. He sat down with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider to talk about the temperatures and the upcoming hurricane season.

Robinson said May is finishing as New Jersey’s 16th consecutive above normal month in terms of temperature and will be the fifth warmest May since record keeping began in 1895. He added that 24 of the last 27 months have been above normal.

The warmer temperatures could mean the possibility of a hurricane making its way up the east coast to New Jersey, Robinson said. “With the warmer temperatures and sea surface temperatures are five or more degrees above normal off the mid Atlantic coast, it could have the potential of keeping a storm strength longer as it comes up the coast. But it’s kind of an unproven theory because it happens so rarely,” he explained.

While there have already been two named storms in the Atlantic Ocean before hurricane season officially begins June 1, Robinson said the hurricane center is calling for somewhat normal activity.

Robinson said recent reports have shown that weather extremes will be more common in the future. “There’s just more energy in the system and therefore more volatility. Perhaps more extended drought but rains coming in more intense quantities,” he said. “Certainly warmer temperatures, more extensive heat waves, those types of extremes.”

Robinson explained that climatologists tend to look at weather a month or longer in advance while meteorologists focus more on the short term forecasts. He said New Jersey has distinct seasons so looking for patterns between them won’t necessarily be accurate. “We have such distinctive seasons and we shift gears for different storm tracks, the jet stream goes to our north, a Bermuda high comes in in the summer. So they’re somewhat separated,” he said. “The season to season variations don’t have a lot of memory.”

He said that there is an underlying trend of warming, however. “We have records that go back into the 19th century,” he said. “We didn’t really see a warming signal emerge from a very noisy climate record until the 70s, early 80s and since that time we’ve become increasingly warm. Not just in New Jersey and the United States but across most parts of the globe.”

The warmer temperatures can go hand in hand with other changes. Robinson said droughts can cause warmer weather, which in turn makes conditions drier.

While Robinson said New Jersey’s weather pattern is more regional, he said, “We’re in a very unique place here in the middle Atlantic because we’re about halfway between the poles and the equator. We’ve got a large ocean off to our east and a major continent to our west so we’re kind of squeezed in and get our weather in all different directions which makes it so interesting and variable.”

For the summer of 2012, Robinson predicts a warm one. “The National Weather Service’s long range outlook has the southern two-thirds of the country leaning toward the warmer than normal side this summer and it comes up to about central New Jersey. Then you have the persistence of what we’ve seen for the past year or two,” he said. “So I would say the leaning would have to be to a warmer than average summer.”