Within this atmospheric mixed layer, clouds, fog and temperatures characteristic of the underlying ocean surface are prevalent (Beardsley et al. 1987, Bridger et al. 1993, Elliot and O'Brien 1977, Leipper 1994). Consequently, the region is typified by persistent clouds and cool temperatures throughout most of the dry season (Renard 1996, Simon 1977). The position of the high pressure offshore in combination with lower pressure in the warm inland areas produces a relatively strong cross-coast pressure gradient, which results in west-northwest to northwesterly winds throughout much of the year (Mass and Bond 1996, Renard 1996). Although substantial variations from these typical conditions occur both seasonally and from day to day, the Monterey Bay coastal climate is characterized by considerable day-to-day persistence and seasonal mean temperature variations of about 5°C (Renard 1995), typical of other maritime climates.
The wind speed at the Monterey climate station ranges from 3.5 to 4 m/sec (8-9 knot) averages in April-June to 2-3 m/sec (4-6 knot) averages in January (Renard 1995) due largely to the seasonal changes in the intensity of the North Pacific high pressure system. Mean temperatures range from 16-18°C during the summer/early fall to 10-13°C during the winter/early spring, although considerable day to day variations exist (Renard 1995, Renard 1996).
Rainfall is limited almost entirely to the winter season (November - April) when midlatitude storms are prevalent. The rainfall amounts vary widely over the region due to topographic influences on the rainfall and range from near 48 cm in Monterey to over 150 cm in the Santa Cruz or Santa Lucia mountains (Madruga 1994). Cloud cover is a maximum during the dry season when the atmospheric mixed layer is well defined (Renard 1996, Leipper 1994).
During the winter months, extratropical storm systems (Figure 2) and their associated fronts cross the region with an average frequency of 3-4 events per month (Renard 1996, Dorman and Winant 1995, Dorman et al. 1994). These frontal cyclones account for most of the winter precipitation and produce the strongest coastal winds, as well as producing a substantial effect on the coastal upwelling (Enriquez and Friehe 1994). The southeasterly to southwesterly low-level wind directions in advance of these storms interact with the southern slopes of coastal mountain ranges to produce maximum rainfall on these slopes (Madruga 1994). Consequently, the rainfall on the southern, windward slope of the Santa Cruz mountains is considerably greater than on the north-facing slopes of the Santa Lucia mountains south of Monterey. Strong cross-coast pressure gradients frequently develop ahead of approaching fronts to produce winds in excess of 15 m/sec (30 knots) along the coast and over the Monterey Bay, similar to that observed along other mountainous coastlines (Overland and Bond 1994).
During the summer months, migratory weather systems generally produce little rainfall or significant winds but act to produce the periods of sunny, warm weather that punctuate the persistent fog and cool weather. These periods of sunny, warm weather are associated with the development of higher pressure over the interior part of the state, usually at latitudes north of Monterey, which results in offshore directed low-level winds (Mass and Bond 1996). These offshore winds maintain clear skies and warm temperatures more characteristic of inland portions of the state.
The most pronounced variability in the meteorological conditions in the Monterey Bay region is due to the significant diurnal fluctuations in winds, temperatures and clouds that occur throughout the year. Diurnal wind speed variations can exceed 15 m/sec (30 knots; Round 1993, Renard 1996), which is larger than all but the strongest storm systems. These diurnal fluctuations are primarily the result of the large surface heating differences between the Central Valley and the coastal marine atmosphere, and resemble the classic sea-breeze circulation (Banta et al. 1994).
Next - Section II. How Coastal Terrain and Other Local Features Affect Meteorological Conditions
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