Perfectly chilly day for a Potomac plunge

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 23, 2011; 1:15 AM

Dozens of people who took a dip in the Potomac River on Saturday to spotlight global warming and support winter cold seemed to be having things their way in temperature terms, at least for a day.

Saturday's low temperature in Washington was the lowest in more than 11 months. The day's average temperature at Reagan National Airport was also the lowest in more than 11 months. It was a decisively cold winter day.

As of Saturday evening, the high at the airport was 28 degrees, at 3:37 p.m. The low was 17 degrees at 7:36 a.m.

The 17-degree reading was the lowest at the airport since Feb. 7.

A few hours after the mercury fell to 17 on Saturday morning, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network was conducting a "polar bear plunge."

This was an immersion in the Potomac, in swim gear, at the National Harbor development in Prince George's County.

Sponsors billed the plunge as an effort intended to call attention to climate change. One of the event's slogans was "Keep Winter Cold!"

Nature has succeeded fairly well this winter in living up to the activists' slogan.

As computed by the National Weather Service, the average temperature this month until Saturday was 34.7 degrees, just a trifle below normal. The average for Saturday was 23 degrees, 12 degrees below normal. That will reduce the average for the month.

December's average temperature was 34.6 degrees, about the same as for January. But it made for a particularly cold December, which was 4.9 degrees below the average for the month in Washington.

"The area is really paying its cold weather dues," read one comment on The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog.

"For me it wasn't that bad," said environmental activist Greg Drury. "Everybody else was freaking out."

© 2011 The Washington Post Company