What exactly is a “sea breeze”?

Mobile County

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Have you ever wondered what exactly a sea breeze is? Maybe you have heard the term before living on the Gulf Coast, but really do not know what a sea breeze technically is? Or maybe you are just wondering why it rains so much in the summertime?

News 5’s Caroline Carithers sat down with experts in meteorology, Dr. Systke Kimball, Chair of the Earth Sciences department at the University of South Alabama and sea breeze researcher, as well as John Purdy, Lead Forecaster at the National Weather Service in Mobile, to talk about what a sea breeze is, what causes them, and how they affect our weather.

Dr. Kimball explains, “The reason it exists is because we have a temperature gradient. So when the sun comes up, our land warms up really fast, and the water really doesn’t.” She goes on to say that this temperature difference between the land and the water also causes a pressure difference. Since wind blows from high to low pressure, we get a sea breeze coming off of the Gulf of Mexico or Mobile Bay. This breeze collides with the air on land and forces it up to eventually form clouds, and if it is moist enough, rain and thunderstorms.

Purdy says, “Sea breezes used to be really hard to forecast in the past, and that is because the model resolution was not as good.” He goes on to explain that now that model resolution is better, we can usually see some sort of sea breeze form along the coast line, and perhaps even the time of day we can expect a sea breeze to occur.

Sea breezes can cause strong thunderstorms that can produce lightning, strong winds, and flash flooding, so they definitely need to be taken seriously.

For more on sea breezes and even an image of one caught on radar, check out the video! Maybe you can spot our next one!

*Sea breeze diagram in the video is courtesy of the National Weather Service*

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