Forget the winter hats and heavy coats, with high temperatures in the low to mid 70s around much of New York Harbor, it was a day for t-shirts, shorts, and sandals. Old Man Winter and Jack Frost were nowhere to be seen or felt on this balmy Christmas Eve, the warmest ever in New York City.
A little after midnight, the thermometer at Central Park’s Belvedere Castle in New York City broke the record high of 63 degrees set in 1996. At 2:00pm in Central Park, the mercury climbed to 72 degrees, just three degrees shy of the all time warmest temperature ever recorded for December. Downstream in Atlantic Highlands, NJ where I live, a similar temperature was recorded at my backyard thermometer at around 71 degrees Fahrenheit.
It was a day to break records all around the region. Many other Northeast cities had their warmest Christmas Eve on record today, including Boston at 68 degrees, Philadelphia at 71 degrees and Washington, D.C. at 71 degrees.
New York City was warmer today than Los Angeles, which had high temperatures in the upper 50 to low 60s. This December in New York City has been the warmest ever, 11.8 degrees above normal to be exact. The average temperature for December 2015 was 50.6 degrees, compared to the previous records of 44.1 degrees in 2001 and 43.8 degrees in 1984.
Down by the beach all this record warmth did not go unnoticed at Sandy Hook and Sea Bright, NJ. I saw people surfing, beachcombing, bike riding, and jogging in shorts. Sights more typical of April or May with spring-like air or sights you see with Christmas in South Carolina. Over at my birdfeeder and birdbaths, birds were everywhere seemingly enjoying a landscape free of ice and snow.
This record-setting warmth around New York Harbor and the northeast is certainly connected to a powerful El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Usually when these climate cycles take place it tends to favor unusually mild temperatures across the northeastern United States. Right now, the current El Niño is officially ranked as the second strongest on record since 1950, and may eclipse the current title-holder of 1997-98 before the winter is over.
Unfortunately, the only bad thing today was the persistent showers and clouds throughout much of New York Harbor. The rainy weather probably kept the temperature down a bit and diminished hopes for lots of people to get outside and really enjoy the day.
Still, it was a Christmas Eve to remember. Enjoy it while lasts, because I’m sure Old Man Winter and Jack Frost will be here before winter officially ends in March.