Rutgers Experts Can Discuss Large Number of Tornadoes in N.J.


Expert Pitch

New Brunswick, N.J. (Nov. 5, 2019) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick experts are available to discuss the unusually large number of tornadoes confirmed in New Jersey so far this year.

Since 1950, the Garden State has averaged about two tornadoes a year; the record is 17 in 1989, according to David A. Robinson, the New Jersey State Climatologist and a distinguished professor in the Department of Geography in the School of Arts and Sciences. This year’s nine tornadoes ties 1987 for second place.

This year has featured unstable atmospheric conditions that can foster severe thunderstorms, which may lead to tornadoes, according to Robinson, who oversees the Rutgers NJ Weather Network and helps coordinate the New Jersey Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Since 1951, December and January are the only months without a tornado in New Jersey, he noted.

In 1989, seven of the 17 tornadoes appeared on one day – Nov. 16 – during a midday squall line of thunderstorms, according Robinson. That’s not unlike what arrived close to midnight on Oct. 31 into Nov. 1 this year.

“One wonders if more tornadoes might have occurred last week had the front come through during the middle of the day,” Robinson said. “The 1989 episode represented a major shift in the atmospheric pattern across the U.S., much like during last week’s squall line.”

“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. “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.”

“Last week, we dodged a bullet in the sense that the storms came through overnight,” said Meteorologist Steve Decker, associate teaching professor and director of the Meteorology Undergraduate Program in the Department of Environmental Sciences 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.”

Robinson is available to comment at david.robinson@rutgers.edu or 848-445-4741.

Decker is available to comment at decker@envsci.rutgers.edu

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