As thousands jump into the cold Atlantic Ocean on Saturday to support Special Olympics New Jersey, air temperatures will be well above mid-February normals.

That time of year has come once again! The 23rd Annual Polar Bear Plunge at Seaside Heights will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Thousands of New Jerseyans will "get freezin' for a reason" by wading into the very cold Atlantic Ocean to support Special Olympics New Jersey. So how does the forecast look?

The Ocean

There is one immutable fact you can always count on for the Polar Bear Plunge: the Atlantic Ocean will be COLD!

For the 2016 Plunge, the ocean is expected to be a frigid 37 degrees.

That's close to normal for this time of year. According to the National Oceanographic Data Center, average Atlantic Ocean temperatures along the Jersey Shore range between 35 and 37 degrees for February. At the 2015 Polar Bear Plunge, the Atlantic Ocean was a chilly 39 degrees.

Meanwhile, ocean waves will be light on Saturday, around 2 to 3 feet tops. The 1 p.m. plunge will happen between low tide (11:54 a.m.) and high tide (5:54 p.m.)

The Air

Saturday morning's low temperature forecast for Seaside Heights is 36 degrees. Yes, it will be a bit chilly as Polar Bear Plunge registration begins, warranting a jacket for arriving plungers. But that's actually well above normal for a mid-February morning.

Saturday afternoon is looking mild, with a forecast high temperature of 57 degrees. That's 10 to 15 degrees above normal for this time of year.

Partly sunny skies will be nice. The stiff breeze, not so much. Gusts to 20 or 25 mph are expected, as the wind blows from a southwesterly direction. So, Saturday's wind will be a land breeze, in the face of those plungers returning from the chilly water.

The air may be relatively mild, but that wind is going to hurt coming out of the 37-degree ocean!

Historical Plunge Temps

The NJ Weather & Climate Network has operated a station on top of Seaside Heights Borough Hall since 2004. This weather equipment is located less than a quarter-mile from the plunge site.

The 2016 plunge looks to be one of the warmest in recent memory. (Although it really is not unusual to see plunge-time temperatures in the 50s.) This year will certainly be warmer than in 2015, which was the coldest of the past few years with freezing temperatures and enormous piles of snow on the beach and boardwalk.

High temperature climatology of the past six NJ Polar Bear Plunge events.

Two important notes from the graph above:
--The 2010 Polar Bear Plunge was actually rescheduled from February 27 to March 6 due to snow.
--The 2013 Polar Bear Plunge was temporarily moved to Long Branch, due to Superstorm Sandy damage along the Seaside Heights Boardwalk. For 2013, weather data from the nearby Oceanport station (approximately 2 miles west of the plunge site) was used.

With the forecast calling for the warmest plunge-time air temperatures in recent memory, we hope you'll join us for the 23rd Annual Polar Bear Plunge festivities as a plunger or spectator! Big Joe Henry and New Jersey 101.5 will be broadcasting live from Spicy's Cantina on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Our broadcast will feature special sky and sea updates from yours truly! For more information on the event, visit

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.