December 2011 Warm Weather Smashes Records in Cape May

Cape May, NJ  – If Cape May’s weather has seemed warmer than usual in December, the reason is that it has been warmer. A lot warmer.

December 2011 was the warmest December in recorded history in Cape May. Brand new National Weather Service statistics show that Cape May smashed through previous average temperatures for the month by an astounding five degrees.

That means this past December in Cape May was five degrees warmer than the average temperature of all past Decembers in the record books.

Not only did the average temperature set a new record, Cape May’s average daily high temperature was almost seven degrees higher than normal.

See Photos of a very warm New Year’s Eve.

Cape May was not alone. Although Philadelphia did not set a new record, the city’s average temperature for December was nearly six degrees above normal. These aberrations are almost unheard of.

The unusual warming apparently started in November. Cape May’s November temperatures averaged three degrees higher than the normal average November temperatures.

Why the warmer weather this year?

The immediate cause of the record breaking warm weather lies in the path taken by various jet streams. Jet streams are bands of rapidly moving high altitude air that steer or drag weather from one area into another.

Cape May’s weather for the last two months was dominated by subtropical and Pacific jet streams. The polar jet stream, which normally would bring more cold air southward, barely made an appearance and has remained well to the north.

The big question is what caused the jet stream patterns to change  in November and December.

We don’t know the answer yet.  We do know that the result was one for the records books.

About Paul Kerlinger

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D. is a scientist, author and nationally known expert on bird migration. He's done extensive studies on hawks, Snowy Owls and neotropical song birds. Kerlinger is the former director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, His books include How Birds Migrate and Flight Strategies of Migrating Hawks. He's an ardent fly fisherman and organic vegetable gardener.