Sea breeze fronts play a large role in our weather this time of year; here’s why

Weather Blog

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ We’ve seen a rollercoaster temperature ride over the last week. Most of which was thanks to a high pressure system that parked itself over and just south of our area funneling in warm and dry air.

However, not everyone was lucky enough to see the warm temperatures on a daily basis.

Our weather during this time of year can be strongly influenced by what is known as a “Sea Breeze Front”. A Sea Breeze Front is exactly what it sounds like.

Wind off the ocean creates a boundary as it meets the warm air over land. Where this sets up and settles will separate the very warm temperatures and the much cooler temperatures.

This example above is a sea breeze front that occurs with an onshore wind, meaning wind coming from the ocean and in this case the south. Notice how it’s able to push the front well inland and allow for the cooler and breezy conditions to follow. This type of scenario can ruin beach days as temperatures could crash very quickly.

In some cases and this occurred just last week here in Rhode Island. Burrillville recorded a temperature of 87 degrees during the afternoon. Whereas Newport recorded a temperature of 67 degrees during the afternoon. There was a 20 degree temperature difference from one end of the state to the other, pretty impressive right?

Now there is another scenario and if you are a fan of the warmer temperatures, you’ll want the wind direction to be out of the north and northwest.

Land heats up faster so a wind coming from the warm land will only enhance the temperatures in areas along the coast. It’s safe to say, wind direction plays a big role in our temperatures this time of year.

The graphic above shows the winds from the northwest keeping any potential sea breeze front well offshore. It also ramps up the temperatures all across southern New England.

Now, let’s move on to a few quick facts about sea breeze fronts since they’re prominent in our area.

Warm air rises, so picture a bubble of warm air over the land (even along coastal sections). As the sea breeze front pushes onshore, the cooler air behind it has to go somewhere right? The cooler air sinks towards the surface and pushes the warmer air aloft into the atmosphere. This process can occur fairly quickly which is why temperatures can drop 5 to 10 degrees within an hour or so.

These fronts form along coastal areas and push inland. The hardest part in terms of forecasting is figuring out where they’ll set up and how far inland the front will go. In addition, winds are shifting throughout the day, and subtle changes in wind direction can ultimately impact any sea breeze front.

As the warm air clashes with the cooler air, thunderstorms can form on the warm side of the sea breeze front. Typically, on the cooler side of the front, the marine air is stable and not conducive to thunderstorm development. However, just across the front in the warm and moist air, the atmosphere is unstable and the front acts as a trigger mechanism for storms to form.

Be sure to connect with 12 News Meteorologist Steven Matregrano on social media:

Facebook – Steven Matregrano WPRI
Twitter – smatregranoWPRI
Instagram – smatregrano

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