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McWeather or Not

Summer Report Card!

Dennis McTighe

Summer 2011 report card: weather, B+; water temp, C+; surf, D. All but five days had ample sunshine, a vast improvement over last year’s gloomy summer. The average water temp. came out at 67.4 degrees and that was a little more than two degrees below normal and over four degrees above last year’s average. I was a bit harsh on grading the overall surf for the summer. Sure, there was that big New Zealand swell at the end of August but for sheer volume and consistency it was sub par. There was only a two-day Baja pulse in early August and that was it. We used to get five or six of those even in a slow season. Now we can’t buy one. The last really epic summer for south swells was the El Nino of 1997-98 and that’s our topic this week.

The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins each year on May 15 and runs through Nov. 15. With the huge expanse of hot water that spring, things got off to a roaring start way early. On May 5 Hurricane Andres was born off Southern Mexico and began pushing to the northwest. On May 9 he entered our surf window a strong Category 3 with winds of 128 mph with gusts up to 136. Because the waters off Southern Baja were up to 10 degrees above normal at 82, Andres held together and delivered a well overhead swell our way from May 12-15 with unbelieveable water temps of 73 degrees locally with no gloom. What a start! A couple weeks later over Memorial weekend a big Southern Hemi arrived along with a 90 degree heat wave. June opened sunny and warm with still no gloom and water temps holding at 72 degrees. Tropical storms Blanca and Carlos didn’t amount to much but then Category 2 Hurricane Dolores started summer off with an overhead pulse on June 21, the solstice. Up to this point there were only two gloomy days for what is normally Laguna’s cloudiest month of the year. There were two days of gloom on June 25 and 26, but then the sunshine returned in fine fashion. July 4 weekend was warm and cloud free with 72 degree water with a nice little south swell from tropical storm Enrique. More on the summer of ’97 next week.

Until then, Aloha!

Dennis McTighe served as a meteorologist at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii from 1969 to 1972, and was an NOAA forecaster  and earned a degree in Earth Sciences from UC San Diego and has been keeping daily weather records since 1958.

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