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Chapter 3

Originally published in 1884
Compiled by Willian H. Shaw

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2004


Compiled from Cook's Geology, 1881.

THE earliest printed notice of the climate of New Jersey is in "A description of the province of New Albion, etc. published in 1648." The following extract from it is here given"

Whereas that part of America or North Virginia, lying about 39 degrees on Delaware bay, called the province of New Albion, is situated in the best and same temperature as Italy, between too cold Germany, and too hot Barbary ; so this lying just midway between New England 200 miles and Virginia 130 miles south, where now are settled 8,000 English, and 140 ships in trade, is freed from the extreme cold and barreness of the one, and heat and aguish marshes of the other, and is like Lumbardy, and a rich fat soil, plain, and having thirty-four rivers on the main land, seventeen great Isles, and partaketh of the healthiest aire and most excellent commodities of Europe, and replenished with the goodliest woods of oaks and all timber for ships and masts, mulberries, sweet cypress, cedars, pines and firres, four sorts of grapes for wines and raisins, and with the greatest variety of choice fruits, fish and fowl, stored with all sorts of corn, yeelding five, seven, and ten quarters an acre.
That the name New Albion was then applied to New Jersey, appears in a letter of Robert Evelin which was included in the same pamphlet. We extract : "But nevertheless to satisfie you of the truth, I thought good to write unto you my knowledge and first to describe you from the north side of Delaware unto Hudson's River in Sir Edmond's patent, called New Albion, which lieth just between New England and Mary land, and that ocean sea, I take it to be about 160 miles."-Smith's History of New Jersey, pp. 27-28.

From the account of Thomas Rudyard, a deputy governor of East Jersey, written in 1683, we extract the following paragraph descriptive of that province:

As for the temperature of the air, it is wonderfully situated to the humors of mankind; the wind and weather rarely holding one point or one kind, for ten days together; it is a rare thing for vessels to be wind bound for a week together, the wind seldom holding in a point more than forty-eight hours; and in a short time we have wet and dry, warm and cold weather.
This description is as pertinent to-day as it could have been two hundred years ago.

In Thomas Budd's "Good Order Established it Pennsylvania and New Jersey in America," printer in 1685, there is the following:

"The dayes in the winter are about two hours longer, and in the summer two hours shorter than in England; the summer somewhat hotter which causeth the fruits and corn somewhat to ripen faster than in England, and the harvest for Wheat, Rye and Barley being about the latter end of June. In the winter season it is cold and freezing weather and sometimes snow, but commonly very clear and sunshine, which soon dissolves it.
Climate has been defined to be that peculiar state of the atmosphere) in regard to heat and moisture, which prevails in any given place, together with the meteorological conditions generally, in so far as they exert an influence on vegetable and animal life Practically, all its phases may be traced, either directly or indirectly, to the sun. It is the greal source of all terrestrial heat so far as life on our globe is concerned. In consequence of the earth's spheroidal shape, and the inclination of the plane of it, equator to that of the elliptic, the sun's rays do not everywhere fall vertically upon its surface, but at different angles at different places, and at different seasons of the year in the same place. Accordingly as they are more nearly vertical, they traverse a less thickness of the atmosphere and a greater number of them fall upon a given area. Hence, other thing being equal, the more such a surface will receive From this varying inclination of the sun's rays comes our word climate, through the Greek verb which means to incline. In the equatorial zone of belt, the sun's rays strike the surface vertically, but as we go thence towards either pole, they are more inclined, and, consequently, the distance from the equator, or latitude, is the most important element it the consideration of the climate of any country And, if there were no others, we should have what have been called solar climates, that is, parallel zone. of the earth's surface decreasing in temperature from the equator to the poles. Any map with isothermal shows at a glance, however, that the lines of equal heat do not follow the parallels of latitude, but differ widely from them. Thus, the western coast of Norway enjoys a milder climate than that of our middle Atlantic States, although there is a difference of 20° of latitude between them. The Western of Pacific coast of our country has its mild winters and cool summers, as compared with our greater extreme, on the Atlantic coast.

The winter temperature of Reykjavik, in Iceland in latitude 64°, is 29° Fahrenheit, or above that of the Highlands. The northern limit of the beach o 'Norway is about 60° north latitude, whereas it British America it does not extend beyond the 50th parallel. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely showing like variations.

The climate of Northern New Jersey, or so much bloom out of doors the whole year, while at London and in the interior, there are frosts and snows. These are examples of oceanic and insular climates.

It would seem as if in the interior there was an interchange of the torrid and arctic zones, and that our north temperate zone partakes somewhat of the extremes of both of them; or, in other words, we have a sub-tropical summer and an arctic winter, although the general influence of the ocean waters is to produce an equable climate, that at any given locality is somewhat determined by the nature of the currents off the shore and the direction of the prevailing winds. The latter may help in carrying inland the warmth of the equatorial waters, or, if they come from land surfaces, they may counteract and neutralize the moderating influences of warm currents.

The atmosphere, like the ocean, is traversed by currents, and cold air, like cold water, is denser than warm, and consequently there is a constant circulation – air currents which sweep over vast areas of the globe, carrying with them heat from the equatorial to temperate zones, and the warmth gathered from ocean currents, far inland. Wherever the prevailing winds come from water areas, they bring with them the equalizing effects of water, and the equable climate of ocean or insular locations are thus felt further inland than in those islands or coast localities which are on the sides of continents opposite to the prevailing wind quarter. The popular "cold waves" are the transference of great bodies of cold air from west to east across our continent, through the agency of the prevailing land currents. These westerly winds, in the summer, bring us the heated air of the southwest. Thus they serve to intensify our extremes of temperature, by excessive heat in summer and severe cold in winter. The measured effects of these air currents, as recorded by the thermometer in the following tables, are often sudden and very considerable. Changes in temperature of 63° in forty-one hours have been recorded in Texas, and in Essex County recently there was a change in temperature of over 40° in seventeen hours, due to a "cold wave" from the west.

The excellence of some solid bodies, like sand and some rock, to arrest heat, is well known. They are easily warmed, and almost as readily part with their heat. This peculiarity of the solid mass of the earth's surface, as distinguished from the water, explains the intense heat of such surfaces when exposed to the vertical rays of the sun, and the rapid radiation of the heat during the night, produces extreme cold. Hence the alternations of temperature by day and by night are much greater in the surface layers of the land than in that of the waters. But there is a great variation in the nature of the surface, and its effects upon the climate, or upon the superincumbent air stratum, are as diverse as its nature. Hence widespread sandy plains are more heated than rich, fertile lands which are covered by luxuriant crops. This more intensely heated surface heats the layer of air in contact with it, and induces a circulation so as to allow a cooler stratum to take its turn in being heated.

The surface covering of grasses and grains serves to protect it from the fierce rays of the sun, and also to shield it from the cold of winter, Trees intercept by their thick foliage the sun's rays, and by their shade protect the soil. Their leaf-mould and the natural undergrowth still further protect the earth, so that often the ground remains unfrozen in the woods, when in adjacent fields or open spaces the frost penetrates deeply. The covering of trees acts therefore as a screen against sun and wind, and serves to maintain a more even temperature in the soil. The forest also serves as a wind-break or screen, and winds are not so violent as they otherwise would be, and the general influence of the forests is to make the temperature more even; to retain the moisture of the soil longer; to arrest and condense rain-giving clouds, and hold the rains and snow longer in and on the surface, and to produce a more equable and moist climate.

The following tables give the temperature and con- dition of weather, as kept by the late Mr. William A. Whitehead, of Newark, from 1843 to 1880, a period of thirty-eight years:

Mean Temperature.
Stations Latitude Longitude Altitude Mean Annual Temperature Maximum Minimum Range for year Spring Summer Autumn Winter Beginning Ending Yrs. Mos. Observer.
Jersey City 40°43' 74°03' 20 32.86 99.50 5.70 105.2 49.66 74.93 54.96 31.86 Jany.,1871 Dec., 1878 6 7 T. T. Howard, Jr., and F. S. Cook
Bloomfield 40°48' 74°12' 120 50.87 102.00 16.00 118.0 46.99 71.39 54.15 30.94 Mch., 1849 Dec., 1862 10 7 R. S. Cook and A. Merrick
Newark 40°40' 74°10' 35 50.52 99.75 12.75112.5 48.30 71.27 52.59 29.92 May, 1843 Dec., 1880 37 8 William A. Whitehead.
East Orange 40°46' 74°12' 160 . . 99.00 4.00 103.0. . 73.84 53.50 . .June, 1877 Sept., 1879 2 1 Thomas T. Howard, Jr.
Orange 40°47' 74°13' 185 51.57 99.00 2.00 101.0 47.96 74.56 53.16 30.62 Jany., 1872 Dec., 1874 2 9 Dr. W.H. Stockwell
South Orange 40°45' 74°15 140 50.46 101.00 22.00 123.0 48.55 71.85 51.62 29.84 Sept., 1870 Dec., 1880 10 3 Dr. William .T. Chandler

Month Maximum Temperature.
Maximum Temperature.
Minimum Temperature.
Minimum Temperature.
Range of Temperature for Period. Mean Temperature
Mean Temperature
Greatest Number of Days on Which Temperature was 32°and below Greatest Number of Days on Which Temperature was 32°and upwards Range of of Fair Days
Greatest Number
Range of of Fair Days
Least Number
Rainy Days
Number Rainy Days
Least Number
Days of Snow.
Greatest Number
Days of Snow.
Least Number
Average Number of Fair Days Percentage of Fair Days Range of Dry Periods (Days)
Range of Dry Periods (Days)
January 65.00 37.00 15.50 12.50 77.70 37.64 19.33 22. . . 21 13 11 1 12 1 17.00 55 15 5
February 68.50 44.70 15.25 8.00 76.50 36.99 21.86 18 . . .21 12 11 1 13 2 16.50 58 14 4
March 77.25 50.00 26.00 2.00 75.25 46.17 30.23 7 . . . 23 13 16 2 11 1 18.00 58 16 5
April 85.50 62.25 40.00 17.00 68.50 55.55 41.48 . . .. . . 23 12 13 5 9 . . . 17.50 58 15 3
May 96.00 71.00 42.50 31.00 65.00 68.38 54.72 . . . 8 25 12 17 5 2 . . . 18.70 60 14 4
June 97.00 84.00 57.50 38.25 58.75 73.70 60.25 . . . 11 26 15 15 5 . . . . . . 20.50 68 20 3
July 99.75 86.25 62.50 46.25 53.50 78.31 70.23 . . . 24 25 14 15 4 . . . . . . 19.75 64 15 5
August 99.00 83.75 60.00 46.76 52.25 74.75 67.30 . . . 20 26 14 15 5 . . . . . .19.75 64 20 5
September 93.75
September, 1881, maximum was 100.5°
76.50 48.00 34.50 59.25 2 68.64
September, 1881, mean was 73.72°
59.98 8 6
September, 1881, 8.5° and upwards on 11 days
24 12 14 3 . . . 18.75 62 21 3
October 83.00 67.00 35.75 22.25 60.75 59.40 48.61 6 . . . 24 12 12 3 2 . . . 18.00 58 29 3
November 73.75 57.25 28.50 8.00 65.75 49.66 36.12 21 . . . 22 10 . . .15 4 10 16.00 53 18 3
December 68.50 42.00 22.75 7.50 76.00 40.31 23.81 28 . . . 24 11 13 2 10 1 17.00 55 24 3

Rain and Melted Snow
Geology of New Jersey, by Prof. G. H. Cook.

The following is a statement of the mean amount of precipitation of rain and melted snow, for the periods and points named in Essex and Hudson counties. The depth is given in inches and fractions of inches for the average seasons, and average per year.

  • Jersey City, Spring, 11.34; Summer, 13.70; Autumn, 10.37; Winter, 8.81; per year, 44.220; from March, 1871, to March, 1877, by Thomas T. Howard, Jr.

  • Bloomfield, Spring, 11.34; Summer, 12.37; Autumn, 9.18; Winter, 9.49; per year, 42.380; from March, 1849, to December, 1862, by R. L. Cook.

  • Newark, Spring, 11.71; Summer, 13.35; Autumn, 10.94; Winter, 10.68; per year, 46.217; from May, 1843, to December, 1880, by William A. Whitehead.

  • East Orange, Spring, 11.11; Summer, 13.66; Autumn, 13.04; Winter, 9.15; per year, 46.960; from June, 1877, to September, 1879, by Thomas T. Howard, Jr.

  • Orange, Spring, 11.65; Summer, 15.58; Autumn, 12.47; Winter, 6.78; per year, 46.480; from January, 1872, to December, 1874, by Dr. W. H. Stockwell.

  • South Orange, Spring, 10.17; Summer, 13.92; Autumn, 10.90; Winter, 10.10; per year, 45.090; from September, 1870, to December, 1880, by Dr. William J. Chandler.

-The depth of snow is not given in the above statement of rainfall, since it is melted, as so much water or rain. The depth varies greatly from winter to winter in different sections.

The measurements of Mr. Whitehead, at Newark, range between six feet three inches in the winter of 1867-8, and one foot two inches in that of 1877-8; and they give an average depth for thirty-seven winters of forty inches. Referring to Mr. Whitehead's Newark table, we find that the average number of fair days in thirty-seven years was two hundred and fifteen; of rainy days, ninety-five; of snowy days, twenty-eight. By months, the highest average of fair days was twenty and one-half, in June; and the least, sixteen, in November.


Mr. Whitehead further said, "The year 1881 will ever be remembered for its remarkable drought. The fall of rain in July was 1.34 inches, the fall in August only 0.28, the fall in September 0.87, and the fall in October 2.23 inches, making a total for four months of only 5.22 inches. The least quantity for the corresponding months of any year since 1843, inclusive, was 10.08 inches, in 1848; the greatest, 34.28 inches, in 1843, the quantity in August of that year, 22.485 inches, being unprecedented, and the mean of the thirty-eight years, 17.028 inches."

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