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Jersey Shore water temperatures soar into the 80s, setting a record

Philadelphia Inquirer 8/24/2022 Anthony R. Wood, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Swimmers in Ocean City might be experiencing record water temperatures at the Jersey Shore. © ELIZABETH ROBERTSON/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS Swimmers in Ocean City might be experiencing record water temperatures at the Jersey Shore.

The water temperature off Atlantic City reached a record 83.8 degrees on the official government gauge Tuesday night, setting a record — and 28 degrees warmer than it was two weeks ago.

The previous record, 83.3, was set Aug. 10, 2016, said Jim Eberwine, retired marine meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly and now Absecon’s emergency management chief. The water-temperature data date to 1912.

During “upwelling” events in late July and earlier this month, the toe-chilling waters dipped into the mid-50s — 55.8 on Aug. 10.

'Upwelling' last month did some toe-chilling

The surf temperature at Atlantic City has since rebounded and then some. It hit the record 83.8 at 9:42 p.m. Tuesday, according to the NOAA gauge. At 10:20 Wednesday morning, it was 82.2, quite close to what it was off the northern Florida coast.

The oceanic mood swings have everything to do with the winds, which recently have emphatically routed the conditions that had made the surf fit for a wet suit, said Paul Fitzsimmons, a lead meteorologist at the Mount Holly office.

Persistent winds from the south that cooked the region with intense heat July into August had a chilling effect on the Jersey Shore surf.

Working in tandem with the spin of the Earth, the Coriolis force, they drove the warm layers near the surface offshore, allowing the colder water below to replace them, said Michael Crowley, with the Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership.

Since early Tuesday, winds have been blowing from a more northerly direction, and that has had a “downwelling” effect, he said, driving the warmer water back toward the shore. Because of that Coriolis force, the waters moved at a 90-degree angle to the right of the wind direction.

And plenty of warm water has been available.

Fitzsimmons said that the upwelling along the Jersey Shore was a regional effect. “When the temperatures were cold, they were still quite warm in other places,” he said.

The career of the water temperatures the rest of the week is up in the air, given the uncertainty of the wind forecasts, said Crowley. “There’s no consistency the next five days,” he said.

On this date 30 years ago, Hurricane Andrew attacked South Floriday

Warm surf temperatures aren’t unusual in late August. “This is the time of the year when the water temperatures are at the highest,” Fitzsimmons said.

But not this high.

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