The Marine Layer 

Marine Layer Lifting


  While growing up in Southern California (SoCal) I was always interested in the weather. As a child I built a weather station in our backyard and monitored it daily recording all the data and plotting graphs and charts. One of my friends at the time gave me a subscription to the US Weather Service daily weather maps which arrived by mail several weeks past the real time dates. The weather in SoCal hasn’t changed much in all those years. It is still pretty boring for weather enthusiasts (weather weenies).  

What has changed is the technology and tools. NEXRAD radar, satellite imagery, forecast models, and the Internet now provides real-time weather reporting, maps, and warnings. The other change that I have noted is the terminology used by today’s network weather oracles to describe the often mundane weather in SoCal.  

I recall when growing up in SoCAL during the early summer months we would often wakeup in a FOG (meteorologically speaking, of course) which is now referred to as the Marine Layer by the SoCAL weather oracle community. The fog would usually burn-off before noon just late enough to ruin plans for an early beach day. Of course this fact isn’t revealed by SoCal natives to the outside world for fear of diminishing the tourist traffic. Much like the Seattle, WA natives seldom speak to the outside world regarding the traffic on Interstate-5.  

The other day I was actually startled to hear one of the weather oracles utter the word fog. I had never seen this oracle before, nor have I seen him since.  Obviously he was new and now no longer, most-likely being punished for uttering the banned weather word. Today this marine layer ebbs and flows along the coastal communities and sometimes reaches over the Santa Ana Mountains into the Inland Empire just the same as the fog did 40 years ago. We have had a number of foggy mornings; I mean marine layered mornings that have made their way over the Santa Rosa Plateau and into our backyard. They do provide for a nice cool day.  

Marine Layer Burn Off  (VIDEO) Click to veiw time-lapse VIDEO of Marine Layer (a.k.a. FOG) lifting (dots are birds-hummingbirds and finches).  

Gray May – June Gloom  

The SoCal weather oracles have developed meteorological terms to describe the marine layer phenomenon. Gray May describes the flow of the marine layer in the month of May and June Gloom describes the same event in the month of June. June Gloom was actually extended into July this year which locals tell me never happens. The forecast for later this week is for the marine layer to make several more appearances along the coast and Inland Empire a – August Disgust, I imagine!  


Spring 2010 rainbow from the backyard of our new home.


During a winter visit to SoCal several years ago there were a lot of nice cumulus clouds while we were there. At the time Jason was fascinated by the clouds and repeatedly photographed them. I must admit they were impressive but they were just clouds commonly seen on the east coast throughout the year. I asked Jason about the fascination and he told me that winter was the only time they got clouds like this. I had forgotten that fact having spent the last 40 years living in the mid-west and east coast.  

When we arrived in SoCAL in mid-November we had clouds on a regular basis which continued through the rainy season and into spring. I was impressed by the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that the clouds provided and took advantage by photographing a lot of sunrises, sunsets, and rainbows. Becoming busy with settling into our new home there was always more work to do and as the clouds drifted out of sight with the changing season, they drifted out of my thoughts as well.  

The Southwest is currently in the monsoon season. I never thought there was such a thing until I attended a conference in Phoenix, AZ years ago. I was expecting nice dry heat and couldn’t believe how humid it was. I awoke the other morning and when opening the blinds and curtains to welcome the new day, I observed CLOUDS! “Wow,” I thought, “clouds, neat little popcorn cumulus clouds, VERY COOL!” Some of the monsoonal moisture had moved in from the east overnight. I now know the feeling that Jason was having with his fascination of the cool clouds. I hadn’t missed them until I saw them again, and they were impressive. I was rewarded that evening with one of the more spectacular sunsets we have seen since we have been in our new home.  

Popcorn cumulus cloud sunset - early summer 2010


We were fortunate to spend nearly 40 years living in the Midwest and Northeast, areas where one can experience the change of seasons firsthand. It is nice however to be back in Southern California enjoying the uneventful, mostly sunny, weather and listening to the network weather oracles try to make the mundane same day-after-day weather into something it is not. But I suppose that isn’t really much different from the eastern network weather oracles competing to predict the exact time of arrival and the precise amount of snowfall the approaching storm will bring.  

Since everyone experiences the weather and you are in the business of talking about it you had better be prepared. You can either impress the masses with your meteorological knowledge and prowess, or you can be an attractive person of desirable proportions that will distract the viewer from whatever you are saying.  

CA Settlers  

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO  


"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."   Mark Twain


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