Photo from Mashable.com
I’m not one to reminisce or contemplate about the good, the bad, and the ugly of a former year, but as 2015 quickly concludes it’s becoming clear the weather has turned really strange and extreme.
It isn’t just that NYC experienced a 71-degree day on Christmas Eve, or there are record breaking flood waters along the Mississippi River in December and January, or a life-threatening outbreak of tornados in the middle of America in December. It isn’t just the US or Europe or Africa, or Asia, or Australia that’s getting walloped with bizarre weather.
The worst is that high temperatures in the Arctic yesterday were enough to melt ice, around 34 degrees F. Take a moment to think about this. The North Pole was registering temperatures you’d expect to feel in New York around New Years, or temperatures you expect to feel in the Arctic in June. That’s right! As crazy as this might sound, in the middle of what’s supposed to be winter, it was fifty degrees higher than normal for December at the North Pole. We are entering a brave new world, one that none of us has experienced before.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, the El Niño of 2015-2016 is shaping up to be one of the strongest in this past century. I have no idea how this extreme weather will play out for the reminder of our winter around New York Harbor in January, February, and March. Everything is connected in the world and universe, so we are certainly not an island. The next few months could be a very wild ride.
Humpback Whale Seen Feet From Spring Lake Shoreline
Warmer weather and water temps kept the whales around longer than normal, experts say.
Originally posted on the Rumson-Fair Haven, NJ Patch
By CARLY BALDWIN (Patch Staff)
December 29, 2015
Spring Lake, NJ - This humpback whale was seen remarkably close to shore Monday morning, breaching just off Spring Lake.
“He was feeding on bunker,” photographer Mary Dunham told Patch. “He breached 4 to 5 times, and then headed into deeper waters. When it first breached, it was right off the tip of the jetty. But in the picture, he’s maybe 60-70 yards out.”
One of the oddest things you will find washed up on a beach around New York Harbor is the remnant of a Red Beard Sponge. Although the most common sponge in the estuary, I doubt many folks are familiar with it, let alone that sponges actually exist in the cloudy waters of the harbor.
Yes, sponges do indeed exist in New York Harbor. Globally, there are more than 5,000 species of sponges, and a few of them can be found right here. Often with mysterious and curious names like boring sponges, finger sponges, dead man’s finger sponges, palmate sponges, and bowerbank’s halichondria (one of my favorites, also known as the crumb of bread sponge because it usually crumbles into small pieces when touched and it forms crusty chimneys on top of soft-shell clams). These are just the one’s I know for sure. There are almost surely other sponges living in the estuary waiting to be discovered.
The red beard sponge (Microciona prolifera) is the one that most beach walkers stumble upon around the harbor and nearby sandy beaches. The odd name comes from its thick intertwined hair-like branches that fan out to resemble a wild looking long beard.
You never know what you will discover while walking along a beach during an outgoing tide. A sandy shoreline with an ebbing tide is always full of surprises.
The unexpected find of the day took place on Christmas day. I was walking along the water’s edge of Raritan Bay in Union Beach, NJ. The remains of Atlantic rock crabs (Cancer irroratus) were everywhere, washing ashore with every wave. Bits of shells, claws, and other body parts, some attached to seaweed or tender fragments of algae, strewn on the sand amid pebbles and trash.
It was another gray, overcast day around New York Harbor. Temperatures were in the low 50s, but it felt chillier with a brisk east wind off the Atlantic Ocean.
Raw winds throughout the day, though, didn’t seem to bother bald eagles. A pair were observed relaxing atop a nest in Cheesequake State Park, located in Old Bridge Township, NJ, not far from the edge of Raritan Bay.
Here they were, the symbol of the United States, hanging out near New York City. It’s an astonishing sight to see, especially when you consider just a few decades ago there were not one single pair of bald eagles nesting near the harbor.
Christmas Day was another record-breaking warm day, continuing what has already been a very mild month around New York Harbor. A daily record high for Christmas Day was tied just after midnight in Central Park with a temperature of 64 degrees. This has been the warmest Christmas Eve and Christmas Day combination on record.
The mild weather unfortunately ushered in more clouds and rain to dampen holiday spirits for many people to really enjoy the mild weather outdoors. Dense fog also rolled in early this morning along the coast and stuck around all Christmas Day to deliver a spooky rather than a festive scene.
But the mild temperatures and calm winds were not lost on wildlife. Among the rich wetlands and waterways at Conaskonk Point in Union Beach, located along Raritan Bay in New Jersey, the bird life were brisk and spry from the time I arrived around 10am to the time I departed at 2:30pm.
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.
STOP THE WILLIAMS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE THROUGH NY HARBOR!
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell