Friday, July 18, 2014

Wind Direction can Make or Break a Beach Day

Down the Shore Watch the Wind Direction

Growing up in Stone Harbor, NJ I loved those west wind (offshore) days since it made for great waves. I could deal with the colder water and since I was in the water or off the beach, the flies didn't bother me. Times have changed now and anytime I am asked about beach weather I always check the wind first, then the chance for sun or rain.


West Wind is Not Good

  • Quickly drops the water temperature due to upwelling
  • Prevents sea breeze so it gets hot
  • Brings in the flies from the marshes and mainland

What to Look for on a Weather Map

Courtesy NOAA
A cold front normally means a drop in temperatures, but plan for the opposite at the beach. This was from last week as a large storm over Eastern Canada brought a series of fronts through the Mid-Atlantic. Normally behind the front the wind will be out of the west or northwest. This blows off shore in NJ.

Courtesy NOAA

Once the front passed and the wind direction changed the water temperature dropped quickly. So when you see a cold front (blue with triangles) then most likely expect a colder ocean to follow. In this case a day after the front passed the water temperature was stuck in the 50s.

Little or no Sea Breeze

You want the sea breeze to develop to enjoy you day on the beach. Often the temperature drops in the afternoon thanks to an onshore wind. Plus the flies from the back bays and mainland will stay there as the wind is blowing onshore. When there is a west wind the sea breeze can't develop so it will really start to heat up and you will be attacked by black flies, greenheads, and mosquitoes. This is a great article on the sea breeze in New Jersey.

Don't trust your Phone's Temperature Reading

This has gotten a lot better in recent years only due to more data available and better programs pulling that data but you still can't be sure. The official observation site for Atlantic City, NJ is at the airport well inland and that may be what some programs look for when you enter your location. The temperature difference could be 10 to 20 degrees if a sea breeze develops between there and the beach. If you see a west wind then it is probably about the same but you may find it much cooler than what your readings say depending on where the sensor is located.

What to look for:

  • Watch for an approaching cold front, that might indicate a wind direction change
  • West to northwest winds prevent the sea breeze
    • Warmer air temperature
    • Colder water temperature
    • Flies Everywhere
  • Don't trust your phone. Sometimes the air temperature will be much cooler right at the beach then a block or two away

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