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January 3, 2019

If you felt like you were mowing your lawn more often last year than in other years, there’s a good reason. There was rain aplenty for the grass. A record amount, in fact. Climatologists have just announced that 2018 was the wettest year in New Jersey on record.

The preliminary statewide average precipitation for 2018 was 64.09 inches — which includes rain, melted sleet and snow. It’s important to note that number is slightly incomplete as data from the end of December is still flooding in, but experts are confident it was the wettest year ever, beating 2011’s 63.95 inches.

New Jersey State Climatologist and Rutgers Professor David A. Robinson attributed the record to a two-part culprit: a warmer region and a dip in the jet stream, a strong band of air currents stretching along the East Coast. When the atmosphere warms it can hold a richer supply of moisture. Persistent weather events, like frequent rainy days and tropical storms, trigger the release of that moisture and pull it out of the sky. The jet stream works like a wave with the western United States on the ridge of the wave and the eastern states in the trough. Last year, it funneled that atmospheric moisture up the East Coast and kept it there, dumping weather events like tornados in Iowa, softball-sized hail in Kentucky, and a deluge of rain in New Jersey.

Robinson added that though the state didn’t suffer through major storms like Sandy, Florence, or Irene in 2018, it rained often, and it rained a lot. “Some people say we were nickel and dimed to death, but I think it was more like quartered and half dollared,” he said.

In addition to going through the wettest year on record, Robinson said New Jersey also had a fair share of impactful climate events in 2018. These included the state’s 11th warmest year, a warmer February than March, an unusually snowy March, a late spring green-up and late fall leaf fall, a major November 15 snow event, a significantly cold Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and a large number of windy days.

Robinson noted that he received plenty of complaints from New Jerseyans concerning the serious effects weather like this can have on the state. He said the frequent rainy weekends kept people off the beach, farmers had a tough time planting and harvesting their crops, and the late leaf fall put a strain on many public works departments.

On the plus side, Robinson said, at least the reservoirs were full.

“For now, we just have to deal with the good news that we're not going to have any immediate drought concerns, but all bets are off when you get into midsummer,” Robinson said. “People always ask me ‘when’s it gonna stop?’ We don’t understand why the pattern set up as it did and persisted as it did but sometimes when you’re on a bandwagon, persistence is your best forecast.”

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