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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 44  |  June 2, 2020

Dennis’ Tidbits


May 22, 2020

May’s Mood Swings 

Dennis 5Here we are only a month until the Summer Solstice. Boy, time flies!

Local surface ocean temps have taken a dive since last weekend thanks to some serious upwelling from stiff westerly winds. Last Sunday the water was 68 degrees and here on Wednesday, it’s down to 59. Sounds like red tide material, maybe by Friday. It depends on how much sunshine there is over the next couple of days to propagate the phytoplankton. 

Anyone who was around in the summer of 2005 will remember how much red tide there was, over half of the summer with 47 days out of 90. Oh, and all the jellyfish that summer too with lots of gloom and 54-degree water on July 10. It was definitely a summer to forget thanks to a strong La Niña.

It was also the busiest season on record for Atlantic hurricanes when the NOAA and the National Hurricane Center in Miami had to go six deep into the Greek Alphabet.

Here in Laguna, the month of May has a reputation for significant mood swings in the ocean temps. It’s been as cold as 51 degrees and as warm as 74. Extreme fluctuations are all about local wind directions and their velocities. If over the course of the month, winds are generally light and variable less than say 10 mph, surface temps will be fairly consistent from day to day. 

In a normal May, temps will be around 63 or 64 degrees at the beginning and around 65-67 by month’s end. Not all Mays get extreme fluctuations. Once we get into late spring and through the summer and early autumn, local winds pretty much dictate what surface ocean temps will be from day to day. The general rule of thumb around here is south winds or no wind is our friend and west to northwest winds up to 15 mph or higher and blowing over an extended period are the enemy. 

One such extreme event historically immediately comes to mind and that was in May of 1980 when over the course of less than two weeks there was a total of a 38-degree swing in our surface ocean temps. The month started out innocently enough with temps already approaching the magical 70-degree mark. 

The temperature was a result of two separate cold fronts carrying strong gusty winds from the northwest that plowed through Southern California and blew all day and night at 20-25 mph for four solid days. On May 3rd, the water temp was an inviting 69 degrees but by the 8th, it was a frigid 51 degrees, which set a cold temp record for May. 

It remained in the lower 50s for several days. Then a strong Catalina eddy formed, bringing pretty strong SE winds up to 15 mph that subsequently blew for four solid days, as temps began to swing upwards significantly, all the way back up to 65 by the 16th. But by the 18th, it was right back at 70 degrees where it started two weeks previously! That’s a swing that’s never happened before or since. 

Finally, on May 22nd, 1960, the strongest earthquake of all time struck Chile in South America with a magnitude of 9.5. 

Have a wonderful weekend at the beach.



Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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