Last month at this time, after one of the driest Septembers on record, New Jersey was on the edge of a drought scenario — but after an extremely wet October, that's no longer the case.

“Statewide precipitations in October totaled 5.79 inches, and that’s almost 2 inches above normal,” Dave Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University, said.

He said last month was the 15th wettest October in 125 years of records — "this after having one of the drier Septembers.”

He said in early October we were facing abnormally dry conditions throughout the state. Portions of central and southern New Jersey were getting into the early stages of a "bona fide drought,” Robinson said.

But October's rains have washed that worry away.

Reservoir levels did not drop to seriously low levels last month, but "ground water was dropping, stream levels were down, soil moisture really took a hit, and with that there was an increased danger of forest fire and brush fires," Robinson said.

Over the past few decades, we've have had dry stretches of weather — but in 2011 and 2018, we had our two wettest years on record," he said.

So what’s causing these extremes? Is climate change to blame?

Robinson said it difficult to really know at this point.

“There is some indication that we’re seeing a little bit more streakiness, a little bit more towards extremes in the climate," Robinson said. "We’ve been teased by threatening drought multiple times in the last 15 years but we’ve gone since 2002 without a drought emergency in New Jersey.”

However, he stressed, “we’ve always naturally had a variable climate system, so you can’t be too quick to jump on the attribution bandwagon."

He also pointed out so far this year in New Jersey there have been 9 confirmed tornadoes, a lot more than the average of two per year since the 1940s — but “these are rare events, so it’s very difficult to look for trends.”

The all-time tornado record for the Garden State was in 1989, when 17 tornadoes were confirmed, including seven on Nov, 16 of that year alone.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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