You’ve probably heard about the sea breeze before but what causes it? Let’s talk about it in this week’s Sunday Science Tidbit.

Last year we talk about specific heat in one of my Sunday Science Tidbit. This means the land will heat up and cool off much quicker than water. Think about a pot of water, the air above the burner heats up well before the water does. This is a key part to creating a sea breeze which typically occurs during the spring and summer.

In the morning hours the land and water are closer in temperature. During the peak daytime heating hours (usually early afternoon), the land can get much warmer than the water. This temperature difference leads to a pressure difference which causes wind that blows in off the ocean.

The warm air over the land wants to rise creating a tiny low pressure inland. Over the water, a tiny high pressure is created and you make a small scale circulation.

The sea breeze acts like a mini cold front and can provide enough lift to get a summertime pop-up thunderstorm that you can almost set your clock to. It also helps to keep the coastal counties a few degrees cooler.

During the night-time hours, the opposite happens. The sea breeze reverses to a land breeze. The land cools off quicker creating a breeze that blows out to sea.

Most of the time you can see the sea breeze on radar several miles inland. In some extreme cases the sea breeze has made it as far as Charlotte, NC! Just look for a pencil-thin line on radar!

~ Meteorologist Candice Boling

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