Late May snow in Colorado and record heat in North Jersey? Blame the jet stream

·3 min read

The same weather pattern that snowed out the Mets game in Denver Friday contributed to record highs on Saturday in North Jersey, weather experts say.

A dip to the south in jet stream that allowed cold air to push down into Colorado to generate snow also triggered a retreat of the jet stream far to the north of New Jersey, allowing warm and humid air to push in from the southwest, said David Robinson, New Jersey's state climatologist.

In Hawthorne, the mercury climbed to 94 degrees, topping the previous record of 93 set in 1996. In Cedar Grove, the high was 92 — a degree warmer than the prior record for the date, also set in 1996. It hit 94 in Bergenfield, tying the record from 1996 for the date, according to Bob Ziff with the North Jersey Weather Observers.

Though not record highs, temperatures reached 92 in Haworth, 91 in Sparta, and 90 in Ramsey and Sussex, Ziff said.

Many towns would have seen the temperatures rise even higher on Saturday but significant solar energy was expended early in the day to burn off the fog and mist, Ziff said.

"It's trying to be summer," Robinson said. "This our first shot at it."

The state's last 90-degree-day was back in mid-September, when it broke 90 in the Moorestown area.

The last heat wave occurred between Aug. 23 and 27, between the tropical storms Henri and Ida.

Saturday's expected scorching temperatures are the result of a high-pressure ridge that will allow warmer air from the west and southwest to come into the region.

Prior to that, the jet stream had been dipping to the south, letting cool air down into New Jersey, Robinson said.

IHA catcher, Gabby Shadek tries to cool off with a wet towel  in the dug out just before going out to catch for the last inning of the game as IHA defeated Indian Hills 7-2 in the Bergen County Tournament Softball Semifinal played in Wood-Ridge, NJ on May 21, 2022.
IHA catcher, Gabby Shadek tries to cool off with a wet towel in the dug out just before going out to catch for the last inning of the game as IHA defeated Indian Hills 7-2 in the Bergen County Tournament Softball Semifinal played in Wood-Ridge, NJ on May 21, 2022.

The state Department of Environmental Protection issued an alert for high levels of ground-level ozone levels Saturday. High ozone days are brutal for children, the elderly and anyone with a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma. Some experts have equated the effect of breathing ozone to sunburn on the lungs.

First heat events tend to catch people off guard, said Benjamin Zaitchik, an expert on climate variability at Johns Hopkins University. People aren't wearing right clothes, their air conditioning might not be working, they forget their sunscreen.

He warned people to be extra cautious dealing with the first real scorcher of the year.

"The studies show that people tend acclimatize with heat and cold," Zaitchik said.

High temperatures are expected to reach into the 90s Saturday in North Jersey and the New York metro area.
High temperatures are expected to reach into the 90s Saturday in North Jersey and the New York metro area.

In other words, it takes time for our bodies get accustomed to dealing with the heat.

And for the next few days, it's going to warm up well beyond May's normal highs in North Jersey, which typically fall in the mid 70s, said Matt Wunsch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“It’s not rare to get a warm day in May, but it’s pretty uncommon to get this hot this early,” Wunsch said.

Robert Alfano of Demarest tries to use his Syracuse University umbrella to cool off while watching a baseball game in Wood-Ridge, NJ on May 21, 2022.
Robert Alfano of Demarest tries to use his Syracuse University umbrella to cool off while watching a baseball game in Wood-Ridge, NJ on May 21, 2022.

Because it is uncommon those vulnerable to heat can become susceptible to the sudden rise in heat and humidity.

The thermometer may tie or break the 96-degree high recorded on May 21, 1996 at Newark Liberty International Airport, Wunsch said.

Related: Are New Jersey utility companies ready for this weekend's scorching heat? We asked

The warm temperatures are expected to continue Sunday, although they will be slightly cooler. Cool air returns by Monday with highs in the mid-70s.

So far Bergenfield's highest temperature in May came on the 15th when thermometer reached 81. The record high for May 21 is 94, set in 1996, said Bob Ziff with the North Jersey Weather Observers.

Bergenfield usually gets its first 90-degree day of the season somewhere around May 25.

Last year Bergenfield hit 90 on May 26 — the only 90 degree day of the month.

Check back for updates on record temperatures during the day.

Staff writer Scott Fallon contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ weather forecast calls for extreme heat, snow in Denver