Siberia in Cape May! Coldest February in 36 Years

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Cape May, NJ – During the last 25 years in Cape May, February often has been a transition month into spring.  In some years, it has even been possible to work in the garden late in the month. Not so for February 2015. Brutal cold and strong winds this year completely dampened our hope for an early spring.

Just How Cold Was it?

This February was the coldest February in 36 years. According to National Weather Services statistics, Cape May’s average temperature for the entire month of February was just above 26 degrees. That’s more than 10 degrees colder than normal.

We set several daily low temperatures, with the lowest temperature for the month dipping to 3 degrees above zero. We barely, just barely, missed capturing the all time coldest February on record title.  February 1979 beat out February 2015 by less than a half degree.

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Ferry Iced In

The mid-February deep freeze was so cold that the Cape May-Lewes ferry could not sail through the ice in the Cape May Canal or Delaware Bay on several days mid month.

The ferry lost 28 departures from Cape May, equivalent to days of not sailing.  Jim Salmon from the Delaware River and Bay Authority says this February was the worst ice-related event for the ferry since early 1977, when the ferry didn’t sail for 45 consecutive days!

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Climate Change to Blame?

You wouldn’t have known it in Cape May but February 2015 was globally the second warmest on record. This is in accord with temperatures going up around the world.  Cape May and other parts of the Northeast it seems were experiencing a climate anomaly. Why?

Some professional weather people are blaming the colder than average weather on climate change. The cross-polar air flow this year, guided by a southbound jet stream, came straight over the top of the world from Siberia. Weather professionals say with less polar ice, arctic fronts can extend well into the southeastern U.S. bringing the deep freeze, along with nasty snow and ice storms.

Not all weather experts believe that our February 2015 cold can be blamed on climate change. Some say that this year (and last?) was simply a normal aberration.

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After we suffered though this near record cold, how did the month of March greet us? With an ice storm that glazed trees and shrubs throughout the area. But that’s not all. It seems more snow is on the way.

With the colder than normal ocean and continuing cold fronts, it looks like it could be weeks before the weather warms up enough for us to stop shivering and get back into the garden again.

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.