Late-Winter and Springtime Temperature Variations throughout New Jersey in a Warming Climate

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Large temperature variations in a temperate climate, particularly in late winter and early spring, can be disruptive for native ecosystems and agricultural crops. As warmer temperatures occur earlier in the year in midlatitude regions as a result of anthropogenic climate change, springtime temperatures may become less consistent, leading to potential damage to species and crops that are vulnerable to the return of historically cooler temperatures, including late-spring frosts, after an initial warm-up. In this work, we quantify shifting patterns in late-winter and springtime temperature variations at eight sites across New Jersey from 1950 to 2019. Many sites located along the coast or in the coastal plain experience increases in the number of times the temperature climbs above 15.5°C(60°F) and then falls below freezing (i.e.,0°C, or 32°F). Sites in southern New Jersey (where much of the state's agriculture is located) experience the most significant (P < 0.05) increases in large springtime temperature variations. Across all sites, there is a general increase in both the percentage and magnitude of temperature variations that occur as early as February. At 75% of sites, day-to-day variation in daily maximum temperature has increased from the 1950s through 2019; day-to-day variation in daily minimum temperatures has increased over the same time at more than half of sites considered. These amplifications in extreme temperature variations indicate the need for both mitigation and adaptation strategies to protect vulnerable crops and ecosystems in the region during this critical time of the year. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Human-caused climate change has made it more likely for warmer temperatures to occur earlier in the year, causing many locations to experience late-winter and early-springtime temperatures that are less consistent than they may have been in the past. These variations can be highly problematic for both vital agricultural crops and critical ecosystems. Here, we evaluate how late-winter and early-springtime temperatures have changed throughout New Jersey (home to a variety of agriculture and unique ecosystems) from the mid-twentieth century until 2019. We find critical changes to temperature patterns during late winter and early spring, including larger and more frequent temperature swings (particularly in February) and increased day-to-day variation in high and low temperatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-207
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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