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State climatologist explains recent temperature hikes

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New Brunswick reached a record-high temperature for February on Friday after the city soared to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, marking the warmest day in the month in 124 years.

The last week has also been among the warmest for New Jersey in February in recorded history, said David Robinson, a Rutgers professor in the Department of Geography.

“With observations at New Brunswick dating back to 1893, the 77-degree (Fahrenheit) maximum temperature last Friday was the warmest on record for the month,” the New Jersey State Climatologist said in an email. “It exceeded the previous 76-degree (Fahrenheit) maximum on February 25, 1930. New Brunswick also set a record for consecutive days of 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) or higher last Thursday (71), Friday (77) and Saturday (74).”

A warm current of air flowed up from the south, which was partially responsible for these warmer temperatures, he said. This current and the several sunny days New Jersey saw under cloudless skies contributed to the high temperatures.

Daily weather is also likely impacted by global climate change. Last year was the third consecutive “warmest year on record” for the planet, according to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) press release.

“It also must be remembered that as a result of human-induced warming, our day-to-day weather is subtly influenced by conditions that have a warmer baseline than in years past,” Robinson said. “That doesn't mean that every day and every year is warmer than the last, however, this does improve our odds of reaching record or near-record warmth more often.”

Looking five to 10 years into the future, it is likely that the state will face warmer winters, he said. There is no guarantee that winters will definitely be warmer, or even noticeably warmer than previous years, but it is more likely than not that upcoming winters will see more warm spells than colder ones.

On Sunday, the National Weather Service’s Chicago branch tweeted that for the first time in 146 years, the Windy City was going to go through all of January and February without seeing any snow on the ground.

Chicago's about to do something its never done in 146 years of record keeping: go the entire months of Jan & Feb with no snow on the ground.

— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) February 26, 2017

Robinson said this was not necessarily noteworthy, though having this type of snow drought is “highly uncommon.”

“While they’ve only had 17 days this winter with an inch or more snow cover — all in December — just three years ago they experienced 84 days with an inch or more of cover, the most since the winter of 1978 and 1979,” he said.

Nikhilesh De is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. He is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.

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