Frigid temperatures and above-average snowfall characterized the weather in January 2011.
This year was the exact opposite. The January thaw seemed to last most of the month and on the last day, the high temperature of 63 degrees tied the record.
Overall, January 2012 was 6.2 degrees above normal at Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township.
“That’s warm. The state itself was only 3.9 degrees above,” said David Robinson, state climatologist and Rutgers University professor.
The average temperature of 39.2 degrees ties for the fifth-warmest January on record, according to data kept by the National Climatic Data Center.
Looking at a larger picture, January also will mark the end of the third-warmest 12-month period in New Jersey history, Robinson said. Of the past 23 months, 21 have been above normal and of the past 13 months, only one month — January 2011 — had an average temperature below the long-term average.
“January wasn’t over-the-top exceptional. It had some cold days in there. It wasn’t persistently warm,” Robinson said. “But I think people, when they add to the warmth of December, they wonder where winter has been for the most part.”
Where has winter been? Try Alaska, which is on pace for having one of the most extreme winters in recorded history, according to the National Weather Service.
There are multiple factors as to why this winter has been so warm, including a strong pressure system over the northern Atlantic Ocean, which influences our winter weather much more than any other system.
The system, also called the Northern Atlantic Oscillation, has been in a “positive phase” which means that cold air coming out of Canada “just exists stage right. You might have a cold day here or a cold day there, but then it’s gone,” said Anthony Gigi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.
Another factor is the lack of snow cover across much of the country — when cold air moves across bare ground, Gigi said, it’s going to warm faster than if it were moving across snowpack.
And February may not be all that much different than December and January, Gigi said.
The first day of the month — Wednesday — saw a high of 68 at the airport. That fell three degrees short of the all-time record of 71, set in 2002.
While that is unseasonably warm for February, Gigi said the records have been trending upward in the past decade. Most of the high temperatures in the days around it range from the mid-60s to the low 70s.
“It’s toward the high end, but it’s not like that’s unusual,” he said. “It’s not the warmest record.”
The forecast from the Climate Prediction Center is calling for a likelihood that this month will be warmer than average. Average to below-average temperatures are expected during the next week or so, but long-range forecasts call for temperatures to warm back up, Gigi said.
“Hopefully we don’t pay for it in the spring,” he said.
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