Wild and Crazy New York Weather, and the Reason Is...

By Brian Thompson
|  Wednesday, Oct 13, 2010  |  Updated 1:17 PM EDT
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All Hail Breaks Loose: Region Hit With Rocky Storm

Eric Jung

Photos of hailstones in Readington, NJ.

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No, we're not going to blame this on global warming, or climate change or whatever for tornadoes in Brooklyn and lightning that chased fans at Monday night's Jets game away from their seats.

Although that's possible.

Let's just say that weather is not just about averages, but extremes as well.

And boy, has it been extreme in New York and New Jersey lately.

The aforementioned tornadoes and lightning are rare enough events where they occurred, when they occurred.

Or not, according to Rutgers Climatologist David Robinson.

"We've seen no change in the number of  tornadoes affecting this region, the number of hailstorms," said Robinson after Monday night's 'frog strangler.'

Of course, he was referring to both New Jersey and New York. Nonetheless, he said September/October thunderstorms aren't all that unusual.

Still, for the non-experts, the weather does seem a little, well, weird. In fact, that's the way M.J. DeMarco, a Rutgers student from Hamonton, described it.

"The temperature fluctuations all the time, it's raining off and on all the time, it's been weird up here," DeMarco said between classes on the  Rutgers campus in Piscataway.

As a climatologist, Robinson looks at the Big Picture--not the day to day forecast of TV Meteorologists.

And the good news is that as we enter a La Nina winter, we should expect less snow, and fewer Nor'easters.

Time out.

What's the difference between El Nino and La Nina?

"No idea," said Tere Urban, a Rutgers student from Clark.

According to Robinson, trade winds in the Pacific control whether we get one or the other. Strong trade winds over the Eastern Pacific push warm surface water toward Asia, and allow cooler waters to rise to the surface and thus cause a La Nina.

Shift those trade winds, and Eastern Pacific waters stay mostly in place, warming up and causing an El Nino.

And El Ninos result in lots of snow and Nor'easters along the Atlantic staes as we saw last winter, while La Ninas tend to shift the origin of storms while leading to slightly less rain and snow.

Time in.

As to Climate Change, or Global Warming, Robinson said the evidence is clear. Global temperature norms are rising, and rising because of human activity (like burning fossil fuels).

While he said  no single weather event can be traced to global warming because weather has always been about extremes, "We see it (global warming) with the earlier melt of snow on the lands. We see it with temperatures increasing so the signal is strongest in Spring(as flower blooming comes earlier and earlier every year, for example)."

Whether you believe that science or not, it might be a good idea to pack an umbrella and some suntan lotion the next time you go  out.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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