Nova Scotia

Surfers and swimmers delight in unseasonably warm Cape Breton waters

Most of Atlantic Canada is seeing water temperatures at least two degrees above normal, but Cape Breton in particular is a hot spot.

Ocean waters off Cape Breton Island are five degrees warmer than typical for this time of year

Ryan Mansfield is still surfing in his lightest neoprene wetsuit this late in the season. (Submitted/Harry Doyle)

It's a great autumn for water sports around Cape Breton.

Ocean temperatures around the island are four to five degrees above the average for this time of year, said CBC meteorologist Jim Abraham.

"Cape Breton Island, and the waters around Cape Breton Island, are substantially warmer than elsewhere," he said, noting most other parts of Atlantic Canada are only about two degrees above normal.

On Friday, the website reported the water temperature at Point Michaud Beach in Richmond County was 17.3 C. Statistics from 1981 to 2005 for Oct. 20 show a mean temperature of just 11.4 C, according to the site.

"Sixteen to 17 degrees, like, we're lucky to see that in July, and it's almost November," said surfer Ryan Mansfield, who owns a skate, surf and snowboard shop in Sydney River.

"I'm still wearing my thinnest wet suit. I'll probably be switching that soon. But we're definitely wearing a millimetre less neoprene than we typically would, and that's a big difference."

Surfer Ryan Mansfield outside his shop in Sydney. (Holly Conners/CBC)

Mansfield isn't complaining, and neither is Nancy Dearing, who was swimming at Dominion Beach up until a few weeks ago.

"The fall here is usually pretty good. The waves are high, so we go in for that, not so much for the temperatures. But this year we were in for the temperatures for sure," she said. "You just jumped right in. It was so great."

Nancy Dearing at the warmer-than-normal Dominion Beach. (Holly Conners/CBC)

Abraham said climate change and the atmospheric pattern this fall have made for a warm season and kept water temperatures unusually warm throughout eastern North America.

"All of that put together is making for a remarkable water temperature situation right now in Atlantic Canada, and certainly around Cape Breton Island," he said.

With more than a month to go before the end of hurricane season, however, the warmer water brings some risk.

"If a storm does come this way, it won't weaken as quickly as it normally would because it would be moving over water temperatures that are above normal," Abraham said. "That's what happened with Hurricane Juan back in 2003."

While the current conditions favour swimmers and surfers, they may also forecast a good season ahead for skiers and snowmobilers. Abraham is predicting potentially "very heavy" snowfalls in western Cape Breton when cold air starts coming off the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"Some of those streamers, of course, come right across Cape Breton. So it could be very, very snowy for the first part of the season."