Baby, it’s cold out there.
Not outside, where air temperatures have finally felt like summer for a while now. But out in the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean, where temperatures have been well below normal for the past few weeks.
While the average water temperature this time of year is 69 degrees, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that water temperatures off Atlantic City reached only 63 degrees Monday and 61 degrees Tuesday.
Jim Bunker, the observing program leader at the National Weather Service’s Mount Holly office, said that while the ocean water temperature had reached as high as 72 degrees in mid-June, highs eventually dipped back into the high 60s and then into the mid- to-high 50s and low 60s in early July.
“After the 1st, it really started cooling,” Bunker said. “And that’s pretty much where it stayed ever since.”
Southerly winds had been creating an “upwelling” effect, bringing colder, denser water up from near the bottom of the ocean, Bunker said.
But, he added, “that’s not the case now. So it’s starting to return back to normal temperatures for this time of year.”
In the meantime, it’s not quite there yet. As a result, nights and evenings have turned chilly along the coast, even as the mainland roasts in temperatures approaching 90 degrees. While that translates to cool, brisk sea breezes in the daytime, entering the water has turned into an adventure.
Stephanie Faber, an Ocean City Beach Patrol lieutenant, said the numbers of swimmers “has definitely been less, just because of the temperature. ... On very hot days, you see people going in quickly, dunking their heads just to cool off, and just coming right out.”
She did add, however, that “kids don’t seem to mind it as much as parents and older people.”
That seemed to be the case on the beach in Margate on Wednesday, where Mark Sykes, of Philadelphia, only ventured out so far while his daughters and a friend braved the chilly surf.
“It’s cold,” said Michaela Sykes, 14. “If you get in, it’s OK. But if you get up and get the wind ...”
Mark, meanwhile, was less willing. “All I did was walk out to about my ankles,” he said.
Added Alyssa Mission, 8: “It’s freezing!”
Jordan Weintraub, of Margate, decided to chance it — despite the fact that “I don’t like dealing with numb legs,” he joked.
“It feels a little warmer today than two to three days ago,” he said afterward. “But, actually, I’m going to dry off.”
Ron and Rosa Wolfson, of New York, tend not to come down until later in the season when the water is warmer, so the cold water didn’t help.
“It’s a little frustrating when it’s so hot on the beach and you can’t cool off,” Ron Wolfson said.
For lifeguards, fewer swimmers has meant less to look out for.
“It’s been boring, man,” said lifeguard Matt Arch, of the Marmora section of Upper Township. “We’ve kind of been sitting watching people stand in water up to their thighs. I’m actually kind of craving for the water to get warmer so people will go in and it feels like we have something to do. Make it more interesting.”
Not that he totally blames swimmers, though.
“I’ve been here 18 years,” Arch said, “and I don’t remember it being this cold for this long.”
Still, the smallest swimmers were having a good time.
Isabella, 6, and Connor Hamilton, 2, of Allentown, Pa., were spending their first day in Margate for the summer and they jumped right in.
“We have a pool at home and they go in no matter what the temperature is,” said their mother, Carrie. “They’re water bugs.”
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