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Strange Summer Weather For San Diego

Audio

Aired 8/10/10

Some are calling it the Summer that never happened. We'll discuss the unusually cool and cloudy weather we've experienced the past couple of months, and what it's done to to your Summer!

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. This summer has created an almost unthinkable situation for San Diegans, apologizing for our weather. Tourists, hoping for a vacation in sunny San Diego, have been puzzled. Locals hoping to grab some beach time have been disappointed, and owners of seasonal businesses have been shaking their heads in disbelief. Of course, things have warmed up a bit in the past couple of days but this summer, just when it looks like warm weather has arrived, we’ve gotten another cloud cover. For the rest of this hour we're going to be talking about what some are calling the summer that never happened, and taking your calls about how the weather has changed your summertime. I’d like to welcome my first guest. Miguel Miller is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. And, Miguel, good morning.

MIGUEL MILLER (Meteorologist, National Weather Service): Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Now, we’d like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. How has this unusual summer weather changed your summer plans? Is this the strangest summer weather you can remember here in San Diego? Call us with your questions and your comments. The number is 1-888-895-5727. So, Miguel, what has been keeping our weather so cloudy and cool over most of the summer so far?

MILLER: Well, the easy, simple answer is just that we’ve had a west coast trough of low pressure and what that’s done is it has increased our onshore flow. The breezes that come from the ocean and head into the desert have been a little bit stronger than normal. And so our marine layer’s been really healthy, really active, really strong and that has made it so that the low cloud coverage that we get in the morning is slower to clear or doesn’t clear at all. So just a really strong – the trough leads to a really strong marine layer presence of really strong marine influence.

CAVANAUGH: This weather has reminded me a lot of San Francisco. Why are we getting San Francisco weather down here?

MILLER: I bet San Francisco would probably enjoy our weather. It’s a few degrees higher here.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

MILLER: But the reason for it, just like I said, is the – is that west coast trough, that low pressure system, that’s been kind of hanging out on the northwest coast of our country and that has just disallowed any big high pressure ridge to build in and give us any heat. So our weather’s more like San Francisco’s.

CAVANAUGH: Is there – Do we know why the low pressure has been hanging out the way it has? I mean, let’s – let me say last winter we had a lot of rain from El Nino, I believe. Is this weather pattern – have anything to do with that?

MILLER: I – My first quick answer is probably not.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

MILLER: There’s a lot of things, a lot of – a big alphabet soup of big things that happen, the Pacific decadal oscillation, the North Atlantic oscillation, the El Nino and we’re trend – we’re moving out of El Nino now and we’re heading into a La Nina. Is this responsible for this west coast trough that has been hanging out all summer? And the answer is, nobody really knows.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay. All right, then. So how many cloudy days have we had since the start of summer? Have you been keeping track at the National Weather Service?

MILLER: Yeah, a little bit. Just looking at since the start of summer, I can tell you from the start of July that Lindbergh – San Diego, as reported at Lindbergh Field, and we all know Lindbergh Field’s a whole lot different than a lot of the metro area…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MILLER: …but that we’ve had 21 cloudy days that have been defined as cloudy, during the month of July. To compare that to normal, only five days, so…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, yeah. So we’re not off when we’re saying that this is a very different kind of a summer.

MILLER: That’s right.

CAVANAUGH: So far, is this the coolest summer on record for San Diego?

MILLER: It’s not the coolest one on record but it is – but July ended up as—and I’m just taking the month of July here, not the full summer yet—but it is the – It did end up being the fifth coolest, and that’s with respect to the average maximum temperature, so I didn’t take the average temperature in general.

CAVANAUGH: I see.

MILLER: I took the average high temperature, and that is the fifth coolest as far as the highest temperatures.

CAVANAUGH: When was it as cool as this in the past?

MILLER: The last time it was this cool was in 1916, almost a hundred years ago.

CAVANAUGH: So we’ll be forgiven not for remembering.

MILLER: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls about this strange summer weather in San Diego, 1-888-895-5727. Bert is on the line from Poway. Good morning, Bert, and welcome to These Days.

BERT (Caller, Poway): Good morning. How you all doing today?

CAVANAUGH: Just great, thank you.

BERT: Super. You know, all of us are not dismayed or disappointed by this slightly cooler weather. Up here in Poway, you know, it tends to get a little cooler than on the shore there.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

BERT: And, you know, I’m saving money on air-conditioning, I’m saving money on watering the plants and things. And, you know, just wanted to point out that I’m sorry for those business folks in particular if business is being affected. We sure don’t need that right now, but, you know, there’s two sides to everything…

CAVANAUGH: That’s…

BERT: …and I’m enjoying the cooler weather.

CAVANAUGH: I really appreciate it. Thank you, Bert. And I’m wondering, is Bert reveling in the fact that we’re not seeing anywhere near average temperatures for this time of year, Miguel?

MILLER: Yeah, I guess so. He’s – There certainly are two sides. I would – I just took a glance at the Weather Channel, which I rarely do but…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MILLER: …they had a – because the big story is all the heat that’s in the east and in the center – central U.S. because they have had a persistent high pressure ridge there for the summer. And the question was did they – what’s – is it disappointing? Are you happy for a cooler than normal summer? And the answer was more people were disappointed with the cooler than normal summer.

CAVANAUGH: Ah.

MILLER: Interesting. 60% to 40%.

CAVANAUGH: I have to ask you, why do you not like to watch the Weather Channel?

MILLER: Because I think I get my information more direct from the source.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Miguel Miller. He’s a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. How far off average have we been temperature-wise for this time of year?

MILLER: Well, it – and, again, at San Diego Lindbergh Field…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MILLER: …the average high temperature in July was only 69.4. The normal is 75.8. So we’re talking 6.4 degrees below normal. And, like I said, only four Julys in history, since 1875, since records have been kept at San Diego, has it been – has been more below normal than that – than this month.

CAVANAUGH: And I think some of our nighttime temperatures have – Have they been record cool? Or have they just been skirting record cool?

MILLER: Well, they have not been – they’ve been cooler than normal but not – nothing to really raise our eyebrows about.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Okay. We have another caller on the line. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Larry’s calling from San Diego. Good morning, Larry. Welcome to These Days.

LARRY (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Yeah, my question revolves around the water temperatures. This year, the water temperatures that we’re experiencing are something like 8 to 10 degrees cooler than typical, and I’m wondering if that – if you can attribute the cloud cover and the reduced temperatures to any of that? Or vice versa?

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that. Miguel?

MILLER: While it’s true that lower water temperatures would contribute to more cloud formation in the stratus marine layer type of cloud formation, we don’t have really solid historical records for water temperatures. And so a lot of it is just some old records that we kind of look back on and the database is really not that solid, so it’s hard to tell for sure just how much cooler it has been. Just talking to people, anecdotally, they say, yeah, maybe a little bit cooler but, really, kind of close to normal. So, I don’t know if anybody is out there that’s keeping really solid records of the sea temperatures but I don’t think that that has been a major player in our cool summer…

CAVANAUGH: Well, if there are…

MILLER: …unless someone can show me some data to sort of…

CAVANAUGH: …we invite them to call in at 1-888-895-5727. I want to talk to you a little bit, Miguel, about the winds because you mentioned that we’ve had some windy days, some breezy days, but these are sea breezes. We haven’t had anything like a Santa Ana so far this summer, have we?

MILLER: Well, that’s right. Santa Anas don’t happen in the summertime.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

MILLER: In fact, it’s – I don’t think San Diego’s ever had a Santa Ana in July, probably not in August either. But it’s generally a fall and winter phenomenon.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MILLER: So, yeah, that’s kind of – If we want to get heat, we don’t get it with a Santa Ana during the summertime.

CAVANAUGH: And no red flag warnings issued this summer so far, is that right?

MILLER: Right, and – and then – and that’s – the last time we issued one was in May and that was only for the deserts when they got real windy. And so that’s right. So, for now, the winds, the sea breezes, those aren’t the kinds of winds and usually they bring more humid air off of the ocean so if the sea breezes have been a little bit stronger this summer, it’s not leading to greater red flag conditions.

CAVANAUGH: That’s what I – my next question was going to be what’s keeping the humidity so high, so is that it? The breezes bringing that moisture off the ocean?

MILLER: What’s keeping the humidity so high is that the temperature has been so low.

CAVANAUGH: Ah.

MILLER: When we talk about humidity we refer to relative humidity, which is how much moisture is in the air relative to the temperature.

CAVANAUGH: Oh.

MILLER: So if the temperature doesn’t go up, then our humidity’s going to stay pretty high, our relative humidity’s going to stay pretty high. It’s the difference between the two that gives us the relative humidity. So the relative humidity has been high because the temperature has been low.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s – I just wanted to ask you the million dollar question before I let you go, Miguel, and that is, first of all, is warmer weather in the forecast and what is the long range forecast going into the fall?

MILLER: Well, our scope of expertise is one week…

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

MILLER: …here at the Weather Service.

CAVANAUGH: All right.

MILLER: So we can tell you that there is a little bit of a warming trend we’re expecting this week. And high pressure ridge that’s been over the central U.S. is going to span westward into our region. I don’t know if you remember, it’s kind of a really faded, distant memory for everybody, but we had about three or four or five days of pretty hot weather right…

CAVANAUGH: I do recall that, yes.

MILLER: …in the middle of July.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, yes.

MILLER: That – a similar thing is going to happen for the rest of this week. I don’t know if it’s going to be as hot as it was in July but we are going to see probably above normal temperatures in most every area except at the beach.

CAVANAUGH: And we just have one week, we don’t have – we can’t look forward any…

MILLER: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

MILLER: Well, that’s right. I mean, the forecast models are never too good out beyond one week but it looks like the weekend, especially Sunday and Monday, look like the warmest days.

CAVANAUGH: Miguel Miller, thank you so much.

MILLER: You’re welcome.

CAVANAUGH: I’ve been speaking with Miguel Miller. He’s meteorologist for the – he is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. I’d like to welcome Izzy Tihanyi, he – she is owner of Surf Diva Surf School and Boutique at La Jolla Shores. And Izzy, welcome to These Days.

IZZY TIHANYI (Owner, Surf Diva Surf School and Boutique): Thank you. Aloha.

CAVANAUGH: Aloha to you. We welcome listeners to join our conversation right now as we have been during all of our conversation. How has this cool summer weather changed your summer? If you own a business that caters to beachgoers or tourists, we’d love to hear your story. Give us a call at 1-888-895-5727. Izzy, I have to ask you. What is the weather like right now?

TIHANYI: Right now, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

TIHANYI: It’s just cleared off. The La Jolla Shores is usually the last place to really warm up and clear off but it’s a perfect blue sky day. There is a little tiny breeze but it’s nice and cool, and it’s just one of those perfect summer days. And the ocean temps have actually warmed up nicely this week so it’s 68, 69, almost 70 degrees now.

CAVANAUGH: Now we heard that it’s beautiful. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for you but describe the typical morning weather at La Jolla Shores for the past few weeks.

TIHANYI: Well, I can tell you June and July were a disaster.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

TIHANYI: It was just cold and drizzly and we had days where, you know, we would drive down the hill and have our windshield wipers on. Now what’s interesting though is it actually felt warmer in the water than on the beach.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

TIHANYI: And we were fine with our spring suits but as soon as the clouds burn off, then it feels really good. But we’ve passed that really soupy kind of weather and it’s just so much nicer now and we kind of got ourselves through it by thinking, you know, it could be a lot worse, it’s just a cloud cover and it’s not an oil spill like in the Gulf.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

TIHANYI: So we really looked at – look at it as we have clean water, clean air and that’s something to really be thankful for.

CAVANAUGH: I want to talk to you a little bit more about this positive attitude that you have about the summer weather but I, first of all, I want to ask you, have you seen anything like this before? Any other summer before? Does that – does this – have you ever had to encounter morning after morning of clouds and drizzle?

TIHANYI: No, we’ve never seen anything like this. This has been really surprising. We kept thinking 4th of July, it’ll clear up, and it didn’t. And now, finally, it’s finally just breaking through. But this is, I mean, I’ve grown up at this beach here at La Jolla Shores, been here over 30 years, and it’s never been like this. It’s usually hot and sweltering, and we’re wearing our jeans and hoodies in the morning.

CAVANAUGH: Right. We’re taking your calls on this unusual summer weather at 1-888-895-5727. Suzanne is on the line with us from Hillcrest. Good morning, Suzanne, and welcome to These Days.

SUZANNE (Caller, Hillcrest): Good morning. I just wanted to say that myself and several people I know, we’re all enjoying the summer. Contrary to everybody else that’s missing the heat, we love it like this.

CAVANAUGH: I know a lot of people have been saving on air-conditioning. Have you experienced that as well?

SUZANNE: Well, I’m not running fans like I…

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

SUZANNE: …usually am. But it’s just – Maybe it’s because I’m from Northern California or something but when my mother and I moved down here, oh, thirty-some years ago, I used to tell my friends it’s like spring all year round. The temperatures were just, oh, highly – sixties…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

SUZANNE: …or low seventies and this year, though, there is all the cloud cover but I don’t mind it. I just rationalize, well, it’s keeping it cool. So, and I do love the beautiful blue days and the big white, pretty clouds. It’s – So I’m enjoying this summer very much.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you so much for calling in. I appreciate it, Suzanne. And back to you, Izzy, what’s it been like to run a surf shop during this unusual summer?

TIHANYI: It’s been interesting. You know, people still have booked their vacations and they’re still coming, you know, to the hotels and things like that and they still want to enjoy the beach so I’ve found that people still want to go surf and they’re not laying out as much so, you know, it’s interesting. They’ve done more shopping actually. They’ve come in and bought more tee shirts and hoodies things like that. They weren’t expecting to be a little chilly down on the beach. So it’s still a really nice experience. People are just bringing an extra layer, a long-sleeved tee shirt, things like that.

CAVANAUGH: What have your fellow business owners been saying about this? Have you been, you know, sort of sharing stories about this weather?

TIHANYI: Yes, we have. There’s a fantastic Italian restaurant across the street called Osteria Romantica, and they notice that – they do a lot of outdoor patio dining.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

TIHANYI: And they – I spoke with one of the waiters yesterday and he said that it was definitely slower in the beginning of summer than usual and now they are just packed. And it feels like people want to make up for having missed the first two months of summer and so they really want to get outside and enjoy the good weather that we’re finally having. So we’ve noticed that the beaches have become a little more crowded than maybe they would normally this time of year…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, really?

TIHANYI: …because everyone’s making up for the lost time. Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Have you had to deal with any disappointed tourists?

TIHANYI: We’ve had a few people saying I don’t know if I want to get in the water because it’s cloudy. And when we explain that we provide wetsuits with all of our lessons, everyone’s fine with that.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Now do you think, Izzy, you’ve lost money this summer?

TIHANYI: You know, it’s weird. I don’t think so. I think different things sold more in the shop. Maybe not as much sunscreen but more hooded sweatshirts. So it’s pretty much been a wash. This was definitely the summer that we expected the economy to turn around, we expected things to be a little better, so the summer was kind of interesting and we’re still waiting to see how August pans out but the number of kids taking surf lessons and people signing up for our weekend clinics has actually gone up, so that’s very encouraging to see that people still want to experience surfing and get in the water. And for our locals, I have a feeling that we’re going to have a beautiful fall. You know, just getting through this soupy weather, I think we’re going to have some nice weekends for our weekend surf lessons, and the water is warming up finally. So things are turning around. We’re really happy about that.

CAVANAUGH: Locals sort of expressing this pent-up desire to get near the shore and get on the beach and into the surf.

TIHANYI: Yes, I think people are just like, okay, I’m ready, I want my summer.

CAVANAUGH: Now, talking to you, Izzy, you have a very positive attitude about San Diego’s weird summer weather. You have sort of compared it to what’s been going on in the Gulf with the oil spill and what has happened to surf shops along the Gulf coast that you know of?

TIHANYI: Well, I want to start out by saying we’re so blessed here. We’re so lucky. I have a friend who’s a reporter, a journalist for ESPN magazine, and she did quite a few interviews of the industry, the surf industry and the tourism industry. Surf shops down there are down 80% and the surf camps completely closed up shop. And I can’t imagine what that would do to our coastal economy. So we have to look at the clouds and keep it in perspective and just think, you know, we’ve made it through. This has been an okay summer but things could’ve been a lot worse. So we’re very lucky and I do think some of the business from the Gulf coast has come out here.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Well, it’s a great positive attitude, and it’s a great way to end. Thank you so much for your observations, Izzy.

TIHANYI: Thank you. And we hope to see you at the beach this weekend.

CAVANAUGH: I hope so, too.

TIHANYI: Okay.

CAVANAUGH: Izzy Tihanyi is owner of Surf Diva, it’s a surf school and boutique at La Jolla Shores. Earlier in our discussion I spoke with Miguel Miller, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. If you would like to comment online, please do, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.

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