McWeather or Not


Forecasting Sunset Spectaculars

Dennis McTighe

Last Friday’s sunset definitely made McWeather’s top 10 list of dazzling sunsets. There must have been at least a couple of colors up there they have not even named yet, I swear. A plentiful stream of mid level moisture bands fanning out from the remnants of the once Category 4 Hurricane Hilary made up the set decoration for Friday’s cavalcade of color. It would be hard for any of us artists, no matter how good, to duplicate on canvas what we saw.

Starting Saturday, Oct. 8, from the vantage point at St. Ann’s Beach the sun will set behind the northernmost point of Catalina Island and will continue to set behind the island until next March 8. Actually there’s a two week window where the sun sets over the water just to the left of Catalina’s southernmost point.
The 2011 Eastern Pacific hurricane season is winding down with each passing day. Only eight named storms so far, the latest being Hilary, now at the morgue, which is the lowest production since way back in 1964. Not one of the eight sent us a real swell. There was a two-day 3 to 5 ft. pulse in early August but the waves were in the playful fun-zone category and that was it. Once again no Brooks Street surf classic, the fourth no-go since 2000. Next year will mark the 58th year since the event’s inception, but we’re still waiting for number 50.

Now that October is here the daily weather gets a bit more interesting. The morning marine layer pattern begins to diminish. Pacific cold fronts get all the way down here on occasions, a few still packing some rain, evident in Tuesday’s rainfall. Laguna’s total rainfall for this month averages about 0.45 inches, but there have been two major exceptions: October 2004 when over six inches fell, and October 2010 when over five inches came down. All of those rains were cut-off low related. October normally ushers in Santa Ana wind season. The last 50 year’s average for the first strong offshore flow is Oct. 10, but looking over five decades, the first northeast howler arrived as early as Sept. 1 in 1955 and the latest start to the Santa Ana season was Dec. 25, 2000. The calendar’s 10th month also offers more chances for more spectacular sunsets with Catalina in full view. Until next week, 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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