While Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, it’s still technically spring in South Jersey. That means anything from swimsuits to sweaters at the shore.
“People should be prepared for a wide range of temperatures. Despite some summertime warmth being a possibility, along the coast, it often won’t last more than a day or two before winds turn off the ocean and bring in cooler air due to a sea-breeze or perhaps a cold front,” said Dave Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist.
And it’s not just the tourists who need to be prepared.
“Full gear (including socks) are a must early in the season. Sitting at the water’s edge with cold air and water makes for a very cold day,” said Greg Smallwood, chief of the Margate Beach Patrol.
Memorial Day weekend will be very pleasant. Sunshine will take the region through Saturday, Sunday and Monday. High temperatures will generally stay in the 70s at the shore, with 80s on the mainland, with rain risks Sunday night only.
However, this year is more the exception than the rule.
Take 2018, for example. At Atlantic City International Airport, temperatures on Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day weekend were downright summery, with highs of 86 degrees and 91 degrees, respectively, sunshine and no rain.
Then a system came through.
The high temperature was 79 degrees Sunday, but that was very early. For much of the daytime hours, temperatures were in the 60s and 50s as 1.37 inches of rain fell. Monday only saw a trace of rain, but limited sunshine and highs in the 60s made lying on the beach just a memory for most.
Part of the fluctuating temperatures is because of the orientation of the state.
New Jersey’s coastline, particularly in South Jersey, faces south-southeast more than east, and sea-breezes can be a daily factor.
“Just a slight difference in wind direction will make a difference (in temperature),” Robinson said.
On average, high temperatures for the end of May in Cape May run from 73-74 degrees, and 69-71 degrees at the Farley Marina in Atlantic City.
“The weather doesn’t seem to get consistently good until the very end of June,” Smallwood said.
Even on wet or damp weekends, though, the words Memorial Day weekend are still enough to drive tourists and locals out of their homes.
“People are always anticipating summer at the shore so greatly, they’re excited to be here, even on a wet weekend. On a very busy weekend, like Memorial Day, we have 60,000 to 70,000 people on the island,” said Katherine Custer, director of the department of community services in Sea Isle City.
It’s not just tourists who feel this way.
“Every year the lifeguards and officers are excited for the beach and the start of a new season, no matter the weather,” Smallwood said.
“I think for consistent good weather, one would have to wait until mid-late, perhaps late June right along the coast. Folks have to be patient and wait for the nearby water to warm,” Robinson said, adding that, for a near uninterrupted stretch of summer weather between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the southern Virginia coast southward is likely where one needs to go, but South Carolina to be certain.
While cooler ocean temperatures early in the summer keep the air cool, the warmer water temperatures later in the season keep the air warmer longer into fall.
“The bonus here is that the warmth continues longer into the fall than elsewhere in New Jersey as the water cools slower than the land and the atmosphere,” Robinson said.