What is a sea breeze?

June 12th, 2013 at 1:40 pm by under Weather

Central Texas is nearly 200 miles from the nearest coastline. But even at that distance, the Gulf of Mexico has a large impact on our local weather.

From moderating our winter temperatures to providing a moisture source for rain development, the Gulf of Mexico has an influence on weather in central Texas every single day.

But this impact may be most noticeable during the hot summer months, when stagnant background wind patterns allow for an interesting “sea breeze” circulation to form on the coast – and trek hundreds of miles to your doorstep.

An illustration of a sea breeze circulation, courtesy of AuburnSchools.org

An illustration of a sea breeze circulation, courtesy of AuburnSchools.org

The illustration above is a simplified sketch of the sea breeze circulation that coastal communities see during the summer months.

Here are the basics:

  • The sun heats land faster than it heats the nearby ocean water (based on the principle of specific heat)
  • Since hot air rises, this causes a low pressure system (rising air) to form over the land surface
  • To fill the void, relatively ‘cooler’ air residing over the ocean waters blows onto the beaches, and eventually inland

This rush of ‘cooler’ sea air is known as the sea breeze, and is basically a mini-summertime cold front.

As with regular cold fronts, the wind shift causes convergence (colliding air masses that are forced upwards) and can therefore act as a focal point for shower and thunderstorm development.

Have a great week!

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