Mini-grant enhances weather and climate data collection in the Raritan

News | Raritan River Initiatives | Resilience

Be it drought, flood, excessive heat or cold, climate variability and change, or simply the more “normal” day-to-day conditions in the basin, it is exceedingly beneficial to have adequate and accurate environmental data at hand to assist the research community, decision/policy makers within diverse stakeholder communities and the general public.

Rutgers Raritan River Consortium (R3C) Mini-Grant funds were granted to Dr. David A. Robinson and his team to improve the monitoring of and access to weather and climate information within the Raritan Basin for partial support of a research-quality New Jersey Weather Network (NJWxNet) station in the heart of the basin at Duke Farms in Hillsborough and the recruitment of citizen scientist precipitation observers throughout the basin.  The development of a webpage that includes summary information and links to real-time and archived basin-wide weather/climate data is also in progress.  The achievement of all project endeavors will facilitate research within the basin requiring weather information.  Such a need spans a multitude of dimensions sitting at the core of the R3C program.  R3C funds were matched with a contribution from the Duke Farms Foundation and from the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist (ONJSC).

Project goals included: 1) generating a comprehensive list of weather stations within the Raritan Basin, including manual National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative (COOP) and NJ Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network and automated NWS and NJWxNet; 2) developing a website with summary information and links to real-time and archived weather/climate data; 3) recruiting citizen scientists within the basin to participate in the CoCoRaHS daily precipitation observation program; and 4) installing a research-quality weather station at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, a location adjacent to the Raritan River within the central portion of the basin.

Efforts through this project will long continue to prove a valuable addition to an ongoing program of making available a multitude of observed weather variables at numerous locations within the basin.

There are currently six COOP stations in the Raritan Basin, which report daily temperature and precipitation.  The NWS has an automated station at Somerset Airport, which only reports in real time once per hour, with no daily values available.

Image of CoCoRaHS Precipitation Station

Prior to this grant, there were approximately 20 CoCoRaHS observers who frequently submit daily reports (the ONJSC coordinates the NJ component of the national CoCoRaHS program).  During the course of the grant, 38 environmental organizations and commissions, 26 media outlets, and 28 public libraries were contacted in an effort to recruit additional observers.  As of early December, 25 new observers have been secured.

The ONJSC also operates three NJWxNet stations within the basin.  Two are of research quality: one being located at the headwaters of Stony Brook in Hopewell Township and the second far downstream at Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick.  The third is a secondary-quality (due to siting location and instrumentation) station in Hillsborough, 5 miles southeast of the proposed Duke Farms station.

A key to this project and to useful monitoring within the basin is the installation of the Duke Farms station.  Variables measured will include air temperature, relative humidity/dew point, barometric pressure, precipitation, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, soil temperature and moisture content at depths of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cm, and snow depth.  Data are input to a data logger and transmitted to Rutgers every five minutes via cellular modem.  All equipment is mounted on a ten-meter tower, with the exception of the precipitation gauge, which is installed 8-10 feet from the tower.  The station will be solar powered.  Duke Farm observations will fill a critical gap in the basin-observing matrix and provide timely observations that are unavailable at any other station (snowfall/depth) or few others (soil, 10m wind, humidity/dewpoint, pressure, precipitation intensity) in the basin.  The station, originally planned to be installed in mid fall but delayed by various regulatory (permits) and logistical hurdles (incorrect parts and weather), is expected to be complete and operational by early January 2019.

For more information contact Dr. David A. Robinson, Distinguished Professor (Department of Geography, Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences) and NJ State Climatologist at or (848) 445-4741.

Join the network and contribute your own precipitation data to this effort; become a CoCoRaHS observer!  Learn more here.