That time of year has come once again! The 26th 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?

Dan Zarrow's sky and sea forecast for the 2019 Polar Bear Plunge in Seaside Heights.

The Ocean

There is one immutable fact you can always count on for the Polar Bear Plunge: the Atlantic Ocean will be COLD!

For the 2019 Plunge, the ocean is expected to be a frigid 38 degrees.

That ocean water temperature is pretty close to 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.

Meanwhile, ocean waves will be light on Saturday, around 1 to 2 feet. The 1 p.m. plunge will happen right between high tide (10:12 a.m.) and low tide (4:26 p.m.)

The Air

Saturday morning's low temperature forecast for Seaside Heights is 31 degrees. Yes, it will be chilly as Polar Bear Plunge registration begins, definitely warranting a jacket or coat for arriving plungers. That's actually a bit above normal for a mid-February morning.

Saturday afternoon is looking seasonable, with a forecast high temperature of 43 degrees. Typical for this time of year.

Unfortunately, our weather will be a bit grey. Mostly cloudy to overcast skies are expected, with a gentle breeze out of the southeast. That is a sea breeze, in the face of plungers as they run toward the chilly water.

The wind may be light, but it's going to hurt coming out of the 38-degree ocean!

As a storm system approaches New Jersey, there will be a chance for some rain. But the forecast has been holding steady on a solution that keeps the rain out of New Jersey until Saturday evening (around 7 p.m.). The wet weather will continue for at least the first half of Sunday.

Historical Plunge Temps

The NJ Weather & Climate Network has operated a station on top of Seaside Heights Borough Hall since 2004. This weather equipment is located less than a quarter-mile from the plunge site.

In a word, the 2019 plunge looks typical, compared to the past decade. This year's temperature will be slightly cooler than 2018 and 2017, much cooler than 2016, and much warmer than 2015. I remember the 2015 Plunge fondly — it was ridiculously cold and foggy, with enormous piles of snow left on the beach and boardwalk.

High temperature climatology of the past nine NJ Polar Bear Plunge events.

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.

 For more information on the event, visit PlungeSeaside.org.

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.