NJ Polar Bear Plunge forecast: Warm air, cold ocean
As thousands jump into the cold Atlantic Ocean on Saturday to support Special Olympics New Jersey, air temperatures will remain well above mid-February normals.
That time of year has come once again! The 24th 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?
PLUS: We want to see your photos from the plunge! Send them to use via the New Jersey 101.5 app for Android or iOS. We'll donate $100 to Special Olympics of New Jersey in honor of our favorite photographer!
There is one immutable fact you can always count on for the Polar Bear Plunge: the Atlantic Ocean will be COLD!
For the 2017 Plunge, the ocean is expected to be a frigid 42 degrees.
Our recent streak of warm temperatures have pushed the water temperature a bit higher than usual 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 2016 Polar Bear Plunge, the Atlantic Ocean was a frigid 37 degrees. In 2015, the water was a chilly 39 degrees.
Meanwhile, ocean waves will be light to moderate on Saturday, around 3 to 4 feet. The 1 p.m. plunge will happen right around low tide (12:40 p.m.)
Saturday morning's low temperature forecast for Seaside Heights is 50 degrees. Yes, it will be quite warm as Polar Bear Plunge registration begins, perhaps warranting a light jacket for arriving plungers. But that's unsurprisingly well above normal for a mid-February morning.
Saturday afternoon is looking mild, with a forecast high temperature in the lower 60s. That's about 20 degrees above normal for this time of year.
Unfortunately, our weather will be a bit more grey and brisk than the rest of this warm stretch. Mostly cloudy skies and a brisk wind are expected. Gusts above 20 mph will come from the southeast. So, Saturday's wind will be a sea breeze, in the face of plungers as they run toward the chilly water.
The air may be relatively mild, but that wind is going to hurt coming out of the 37-degree ocean!
As a strong cold front approaches New Jersey, there will be a chance for gusty showers and potentially strong thunderstorms on Saturday. But the forecast has been holding steady on a solution that keeps those storms out of New Jersey until Saturday late afternoon (around 4 p.m. at the earlier), and out of Seaside Heights until later Saturday evening.
Historical Plunge Temps
The 2017 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 be slightly warmer than 2016 and much warmer compared to 2015, which was the coldest of the past few years with freezing temperatures and enormous piles of snow on the beach and boardwalk.
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 24th Annual Polar Bear Plunge festivities as a plunger or spectator! Big Joe Henry and New Jersey 101.5 will be broadcasting live from Spicy 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 PlungeSeaside.org.