As December's end approaches, I love looking back at the weather and climate events that transpired throughout the year. It's cathartic — appreciating the enormous variety of weather that affects our tiny state. It's educational — learning more about meteorology and hazard communication from every forecast and every storm. And finally, it is the grand starting point for putting together our gallery of the top weather stories of 2021.

It is almost cliche to say a year was filled with wild weather. But 2021 truly was crazy. And, at times, truly catastrophic. My initial research produced 26 possible entries for inclusion on this year's list. And the final "shortlist" ranking you'll see below is a top 15. Wow.

Furthermore, any of the top 3 or 4 entries could be a clear number one in any other not-as-active year. Double wow.

Let's talk about how this list works. These are not necessarily the "biggest storms" of the year. Stretches of nice weather can make the cut. As can droughts, heat waves, cold snaps, etc. Important climate events are there too. The final list is admittedly totally subjective. Inclusion and ranking are based on how impactful, newsworthy, memorable, and/or widespread an individual event was for all/part of the Garden State.

I owe a very special thanks to my friend, colleague, and mentor Dr. Dave Robinson, the State Climatologist of New Jersey. His office runs the NJ Weather Network, a system of 60+ weather stations throughout the state. And he produces incredibly helpful, comprehensive narrative recaps for every month and season.

Additional data and statistics contained here come from the National Weather Service offices in Mt. Holly and Upton, the Storm Prediction Center, the National Hurricane Center, and the National Centers for Environmental Information's Storm Events Database.

Four named tropical systems. An epic snowstorm. Terrible tornadoes. A soggy, steamy summer. And smoke. Let's dive in!

Counting down New Jersey's top 15 weather stories of 2021

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. No matter what weather Mother Nature throws at the Garden State in 2022, he'll have it covered on-air and online. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.

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