By John Burton
State Climatologist David Robinson knows the cliché is going to hold true this season: If you don’t like the weather, just wait.
This week Robinson of Rutgers University said it’s anyone’s guess if the erratic weather we’ve been seeing – from warm and damp to screamingly freezing and snowy – will continue for the rest of the winter.
“Don’t let anyone think winter’s done,” Robinson warned this week. “When it’s the 7th of January, you don’t want to declare winter done.
“The question is what comes next,” he said. “We just simply can’t tell you at this point.”
But for the short term, once we’ve defrosted from this week of warm rain followed by single digits and amazing wind chill levels, we’re looking at a stretch of about 10 days of higher than normal temperatures and maybe some wet weather. But, he forecast, “No frigid air in sight.”
This week New Jersey – and much of the rest of the country – experienced some of the coldest temperatures we’ve seen since at least 1994, with the mercury stuck in the single digits on Tuesday. Before 1994, researchers have to go back to 1982 to find similar temperature readings, Robinson said.
The bone-chilling cold came on the heels of a downright balmy Monday with thermometer readings in the high 50s to near 60. “I don’t know when but we’ve seen these rapid turnarounds before,” Robinson said, “but we have seen them.”
What’s going on?
The erratic weather patterns seen here – and in much of the western hemisphere – for the past six weeks are what Robinson called an “amplified progressive pattern.” The pattern involves circuitous polar jet streams moving rather quickly, trapping cold air when it dips south and warm air when it travels north.
Because of how quickly it’s moving, those streams can result in extremes in cold and warm weather. “It can provide the fuel to see some pretty powerful storms,” Robinson said.
During the past six weeks the region has seen snow and rain events. “It’s one of those where you say, ‘Wow, you turn around and the weather’s different,’” he said.
“The one thing we can’t tell you is if it’s going to be in place predominately for the winter or will it exhaust itself,” he said.
Traditionally, the coldest stretch of the winter is usually found in the last two weeks in January and first week in February – just in time for the Super Bowl in MetLife Stadium in North Jersey. And after that time, Robinson said, “the odds of getting back in the icebox are pretty slim.”
But it’s still early January.
“You may want to keep the long underwear handy,” he said.