NEWBURY — As temperatures hovered in the low 90s yesterday, many locals flocked to beaches to escape the oppressive late-summer heat.
But a plunge in the ocean these days isn't as chilling as one might think.
A reading in the Gulf of Maine marked yesterday's water temperature at 71.4 degrees at 4 p.m., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Data Buoy Center.
At Salisbury Reservation, the water temperatures have been in the mid- to high 60s, colder than some other beaches due to the upwelling effect the beach gets, but also far warmer than the temps in the low-50s in June.
Dan Backler, a lifeguard at Plum Island, said the water temperature at that beach has ranged from 68 to 70 degrees in the last few days.
"It's definitely warmer than it has been," Backler, 19, said. "And with the possible storm this weekend and currents from the south, the water could get even warmer."
Backler said this past weekend was the beach's busiest of the year, as the heat is motivating many who normally avoid the notoriously frigid New England waters to take the plunge.
Jeff Luedke, who was wading in the white water with his son, said Tuesday and yesterday were the first times they'd been to the beach this summer.
"Yesterday it was really warm," Luedke, of New Boston, N.H., said.
The planet's ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for July, according to the NOAA. The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for July ranked fifth-warmest since worldwide records began in 1880.
NOAA identified the Atlantic Ocean off New England, dominated by the currents of the Gulf of Maine, as one of three sectors showing the most extreme increase in temperatures.
NOAA offered no immediate theory for the global or regional temperature anomalies, but scientists at NOAA noted that the planet is experiencing the periodic climactic upheavals of the El Nino effect, and they also emphasized that these temperature variations are not by themselves signs of global warming.