2020 NJ Polar Bear Plunge forecast: Sunny, cool air, cool ocean
That time of year has come once again! The annual Polar Bear Plunge at Seaside Heights will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, February 22, 2020. Thousands of New Jerseyans will "get freezin' for a reason" by wading into the very cold Atlantic Ocean to support Special Olympics New Jersey. And this year's weather and ocean forecast looks pretty good!
There is one immutable fact you can always count on for the Polar Bear Plunge: the Atlantic Ocean will be COLD!
For the 2020 Plunge, the ocean is expected to be a chilly 41 degrees.
That ocean water temperature is actually a few degrees above 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. It is also warmer than last year, as plungers faced 38-degree water. (Of course, a difference of 3 degrees is negligible.)
Meanwhile, ocean waves will be light on Saturday, around 1 to 2 feet. The 1 p.m. plunge will happen right at low tide (12:49 p.m.) High tide will occur much later in the evening (6:51 p.m.)
Saturday morning's low temperature forecast for Seaside Heights is 23 degrees. Oh yes, it will be quite cold as Polar Bear Plunge registration begins, definitely warranting a jacket or coat for arriving plungers.
Saturday afternoon will be warmer than the past couple of days, with a forecast high temperature of 47 degrees. Slightly above climatological norms for this time of year.
Fortunately, abundant sunshine will cut through any coolness in the air. Ambient wind will be out of the west at 10 to 15 mph, which might be just enough to counter any potential sea breeze. (That's not a guarantee though.)
The wind may be light, but it's going to hurt coming out of the 41-degree ocean!
Our next chance for any raindrops will hold off until Monday at the earliest.
Historical Plunge Temps
The 2020 plunge looks typical, compared to the past decade. This year's temperature will be slightly warmer than 2019 and similar to 2018 — the third year in a row with temps in the 40s. It will be much warmer than 2015 — I that Plunge fondly — it was ridiculously cold and foggy, with enormous piles of snow left 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 fair weather, we hope you'll join us for the 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. For more information on the event, visit PlungeSeaside.org.
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. While he's never plunged into the ocean in the wintertime, he has attended four Polar Bear Plunge events as spectator and on-site meteorologist. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.