Dennis’ Local Almanac

By DENNIS McTIGHE

June gloom in April

It’s called June gloom in April, and it’s brought to you by the one and only Catalina Eddy. Some folks think Catalina Eddy is the name of a mob boss, or a pool shark, or even a poker wizard, but in reality it has to do with the atmospheric conditions around here when spring rolls around. Moisture and temperature differences are the main players in this annual phenomenon.

Here in Laguna at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday afternoon we were socked in with loads of stratus clouds that were slow to burn off, so it was kind of gloomy here at the coast. But if you went just a couple of miles inland over the hill, the sun was out. It wasn’t really cold as the temp here at 3:45 p.m. was around 65 degrees and that’s around five degrees below normal for April 21.

What’s happening here is there’s a pocket of lower pressure out in the Catalina Channel that draws moist marine air from the Pacific where’s there’s a pocket of higher pressure a couple of hundred miles off our coast. As you probably know by now, air from a high always blows toward a low creating an eddy in the lower atmosphere where the breeze blows in a counterclockwise fashion bringing loads of moist marine air onshore.

That low is not a rain producer unless that low is deep enough, and in that case, we’ll get some drizzle or very light rain, but amounts are usually only a few hundredth of an inch. Another significant component is all the heat in our nearby desert regions (where it was well into the 90s) on Sunday and a secondary pocket of lower pressure formed out by the lower Colorado River Basin. That added to the formation of a thick marine layer that consisted of moisture that aided in the development of thick stratus clouds. Their layers can reach 5,000 to 6,000 feet depending on how significant that temperature differential is. This “eddy” normally peaks from mid-May through most of June, hence, the monikers May Gray or June Gloom.

I almost forgot to mention that local surface ocean temps are also a major factor in dictating how cloudy it will be in our coastal areas. Right now, local ocean temps remain chilly, running in the high 50s, so that extreme difference between temps at the beach and desert temps greatly increase that cloud deck. The amount of gloom varies from year to year. Some years we get lucky like in 1996 and in 1997 when there was a strong El Niño going on in ‘97. There were only two gloomy days in all of ‘96, one in May and only one that June because water temps were almost 70 degrees. Then in ‘97 the water was 75 as early as mid-April and stayed at 70 or above from mid-April through most of November that year. Then you get a gloomy spring like in 1982 when there were only three sunny days in all of May and June and the gloom that year hung on for most of the summer and the water never hit 70 that entire summer! 1967, 1973, 1991 and 2005 were also bad and not surprising – all those crummy years occurred when La Niña was going.

Looking ahead it appears we’re not out of the woods yet as later this week an upper-level low is supposed to find its way down here. It will bring with it a good chance of showers to our area. On the bright side, that low will chase the gloom out of here. Stay tuned on that one. Daytime temps remain quite a bit below normal on a daily basis. In fact, this is the first time in my memory that we haven’t had at least one spring heat wave at all. Same deal with the water temps. It’s just not prime beach weather quite yet.

Have a great week, ALOHA!


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