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Warmer October means worries about autumn brush fires

New Jersey just experienced the 10th warmest September in 123 years, says state climatologist at Rutgers, Dave Robinson. He says the first half of October is running about nine degrees above normal. There has also been no soaking rain since the first week of September.

The beach in Belmar in October (Bud McCormick)
The beach in Belmar in October (Bud McCormick)

He says this is definitely unusual weather for October.

“We’re going to end the month well above normal, temperature-wise. Even if we were to get back to normal for the remainder of the month, we’d still be close to the 10th warmest October on record.”

Robinson says aside from a few cold snaps here and there, the next two weeks lean toward the warmer side. In terms of precipitation, he says we have to keep a close eye out. In the last 30 days, most of the state has only had about 20 to 30 percent of normal precipitation. And if that continues, we’ll be looking at one of the driest Octobers on record.

New Jerseyans are getting used to the warm weather even if the calendar does say October. Robinson says September was also the 6th warmest September since 2005. The state has been seeing a lot of summer warmth in the fall in recent years.

One problem with a warm October is that “the leaves are turning later. We are a week to two weeks behind average in the leaf season, ” says Robinson.

With the leaves falling and everything so dry, we may be facing a fall fire season on top of everything else, says Robinson. You don’t normally have to worry about a fire season until spring. But because it’s been so warm and dry, we must be on the lookout for brush fires.

Robinson also says rivers are running low. Ground moisture is low. The good news is that the state’s reservoirs are still doing okay. But in the last month or so, they have fallen from somewhat being above average due to some pretty hefty summer rains, to being about where they should be at this time of year.

But again, the major concern for Robinson right now is the fire danger as everything shuts down for the season and everything continues to be dry.

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