OCEAN CITY – Swimmers who have noticed the unusually cold waters over the past two weeks saw a five-degree temperature spike Sunday, resulting in warmer waters for beach-goers.
According to Ocean City Beach Patrol Crew Chief Jason Konyar, the ocean temperature increased from 68.7 degrees on Saturday to 73 degrees on Sunday. The temperature increase is good news for swimmers, but many vacationers wondered last week the reason behind the rise and fall of water temperatures.
Konyar explained that while the sun is usually the most obvious factor in water temperatures, the winds play a major role as well.
People would generally expect a south wind to bring warmer waters from the south, resulting in warmer ocean waters. According to Konyar, this is not the case.
South winds cause a circulation in the water that results in an “upwell” of colder waters that are beneath the warmer surface waters. As a result, the warmer surface waters, heated by the intense sun, are pushed out, leaving colder water for swimmers.
Konyar explained that over the past two weeks, the resort has been experiencing mostly south winds. As a result, the water temperatures have been colder over the past two weeks than it had been earlier in the summer.
A north or northeast wind on the other hand brings warmer water temperatures. The north or northeast wind pushes the cold water back to the bottom, bringing the warmer water back to the surface.
On Sunday, there was a switch from a south wind to a northeast wind, resulting in the five-degree temperature jump.
Konyar noted that Nor’easters, a storm common to this area, could also bring warmer water temperatures. Nor’easters are storms featuring winds blowing from the northeast. The consistency of that northeast wind results in the warmer water temperatures.
The occurrence of a west wind generally keeps the warmer surface temperature as well. Konyar explained that a west wind would hold the wave up, resulting in a glassy wave as opposed to choppy waves. Too much west wind, however, will blow away warm surface temperatures, resulting in a decrease in water temperature.
Despite the decrease in temperatures over the past two weeks, swimmers should see temperatures remaining in the 70-degree range throughout the month of August.