NWS: Ocean temperatures “warming rapidly” as holiday weekend looms

    Seaside Park in July 2015. (Photo: Justin Auciello/for NewsWorks)

    Seaside Park in July 2015. (Photo: Justin Auciello/for NewsWorks)

    After a shaky start to the swimming season, ocean temperatures are “warming rapidly,” forecasters say.

    The temperatures are “several degrees above normal” along the Mid-Atlantic coast, according to a forecast discussion issued late this morning from the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly.

    They’re ranging from the middle 60s to around 70 degrees, the discussion states. 

    The kick off to the summer beach season on Memorial Day weekend featured cooler ocean temperatures than normal, courtesy of days of uncooperative winds that prevent moderation.

    Due to the wind direction — offshore winds push warm water away from the coast, while an onshore flow does the opposite — ocean temperatures have gone up and down through June, a transitional time between the cold springtime ocean temperatures and warm middle to late summer period.

    The fluctuation will occur throughout the summer, when ocean temperatures peak in the middle to upper 70s in September.

    [RELATED: Science explains changes in water temperature from beach to beach]

    And that’s the “ideal” temperature, one researcher says. 

    “Most people like it to be at least in the mid to upper 70s,” said Josh Kohut, assistant professor of Physical Oceanography at Rutgers University and founding member of the university’s Coastal Ocean Observation Lab (COOL).

    But it’s different for surfers, says Tim Husar, a year-round surfer at Seaside Park and Island Beach State Park who fishes often in Ocean County. 

    “Definitely the mid 60s is the sweet spot. Anything higher than that, like when you get water temperatures in the 70s, means that you don’t get much of a swell,” he told NewsWorks in 2014.

    The rip current risk will likely vary daily from low to moderate through Independence Day. 

    “No matter what the risk, please think about where you swim. Jetties and piers NO. Within sight of lifeguards YES — especially if you’re a weak swimmer. The goal is a safe fun beach experience,” the National Weather Service forecast discussion advises. 

    According to NOAA, here’s how to identify a rip current: 

    A channel of churning, choppy water.
    An area having a notable difference in water color.
    A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward.
    A break in the incoming wave pattern.

    Rip current speeds vary, with an average pull of 1-2 feet per second, but some can move as fast as 8 feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer, according to NOAA.

    Your first line of defense is to check the surf forecast before you head to the beach. NOAA updates the forecast daily. Watch this informative NOAA video on rip current safety.

    If caught in a rip current, NOAA advises:

    Stay calm.
    Don’t fight the current.
    Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle—away from the current—toward shore.
    If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
    If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, call or wave for help.

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