Northern Breeze

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Northern Breeze

Understanding Sea Breezes

Temperature differences can also cause changes to the weather on a local scale. Sea breeze is the name associated with a family of winds generated on sunny and partly sunny days, when the extra heat of the land causes a cool breeze to blow inland from the water. In certain parts of the world, the sea breeze is so predictable during the summer months that you can almost set your watch by it. Summer sea breezes are common in nearly every coastal town in the midlatitudes.

Here's how sea breezes work: As the land heats, the air rises (sometimes creating puffy, cumulus clouds), and an area of low pressure is created over the land by midday. Meanwhile, the water remains cooler, and so does the air above the water. Cool air from the water blows (or, really, is sucked) into the low pressure over the land. If the conditions are favorable (a light offshore wind up at cloud level and a large temperature difference between land and water), the sea breeze can build fairly quickly to 15 knots or more. Figure 8-4 depicts the classic sea breeze.

As the sun drops, the heating of the land diminishes, and so does the sea breeze. In the northern hemisphere, watch for the sea breeze to build until midafternoon and then slowly die away, shifting to the right (clockwise) in response to the ubiquitous Coriolis force (it shifts left in the southern hemisphere).

If the moon's pull is constant as it orbits the Earth, why is the tidal range 15 feet (5 meters) or more in some parts of the world and only a few inches in others? The mathematical answer can make a university student's head hurt, but in practical terms, these differences are due to the shape and proximity of land masses, the underwater topography, and the wind.

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