June is a good month to gloat in La Mesa [head cocked back diagonally, elbows out, thumbs hooked under suspenders], yes indeeedy. Because while all the beach-area inhabitants are pulling back out their winter chandails (that’s a gloater’s word for big honkin’ sweaters), we in the East are sipping dry, very dry, rosé and pecking pistachios on the patio in our skivvies. Well, maybe we’ve got some day clothes on, but we are enjoying the sunset, and we see the sun. This would not be the case in the beach areas. The proverbial “June Gloom” is for the coast, mostly. So, even though I sometimes make (huge, long, detailed) mental notes about which houses I wished I lived in when I happen to spend the day in Coronado, or Mission Bay, or Encinitas, I LUV the fact that La Mesa is almost untouchable by the evil June Gloom. Sometimes I forget – it’s so glorious out here I pack up the herd, which may be noted for the record is sometimes a very difficult and stressful affair, and haul off to the beach. Yea the beach! But when we get there it’s 40 degrees cooler and their ain’t no sun. Dagnabbit. I feel better when we get back to The Table. Which leads me to ask, to what (or Whom) do we owe this seasonal climatic superiority? It is surely linked to the fact that we are called The Table. Although when I look around me, and when I ride my bike, I wonder just how anyone could have convinced the council elders that a good name for this place would be La Mesa. There must have been a lot of sangria going around at that meeting.
In college I took an oceanography class. Part of the class was allotted to learning about the connection between the ocean, the local geography, and the climate. Proximity to a large body of water, like the Pacific Ocean, is pretty much a defining factor in what your overall weather experience will be. Throw some mountains in the mix and it gets even more interesting. Due to these phenomena San Diego has several microclimates and depending on where you are between the ocean and the desert you will be living a completely different day, especially in June (or May). The dreaded June Gloom (May Grey) is driven by what’s called an inversion layer (not related to tiramisu – but can’t everything be linked back to a dessert?!). High pressure in the eastern Pacific blocks storms from reaching southern California and also pushes warm air downward, trapping much cooler air over the ocean and forming a marine layer which can hang out along the coast in the form of fog or low clouds. Very high pressure confines this layer to the coastline – the inland areas, i.e. La Mesa and Co., are far enough away from the ocean to go unaffected by the blanket of grey. If the high pressure is a little lower we have a greater chance of seeing the blanket reach out toward the inland valleys and the mountains. Apparently this year was not as gloomy as other years, perhaps partly due to the effects of El Nino which can have an lessening effect on the high pressure in the Pacific and sends San Diego more chances of rain. It did rain a lot didn’t it? Rain or gloom, either way you look at it, not my favorite weather for this time of year!
In trying to (re)discover (alas, college was a long time ago…) the workings of June Gloom I found myself wondering just who is in charge of the weather in La Mesa. By this I mean where is the official captor for meteorological happenings? Of course the Internet is a fabulous resource for anything data-driven such as weather statistics. I ended up fairly quickly on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service website (say that ten times fast!). I clicked about looking for the likes of an official source for La Mesa’s weather and wheedled it down to a weather station which according to its GPS coordinates sits in someone’s yard off of Date Street near downtown. Hmmmm. This made me wonder. (Yes, I am the human version of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”.) Is this an official weather station? And just how is it that the National Weather Service decides where to put these stations?
For this kind of question, and so many other questions in life, there is no better resource than a human being. I think I’ll say that again in capitals. THERE IS NO BETTER RESOURCE THAN A HUMAN BEING. Mmm, that felt good.
I called the San Diego National Weather Service Forecast Office and made it quickly through the digital button-pushing part of the call to make contact with a real human being. And an extremely cordial, helpful one at that. He explained to me that traditionally, from the 40’s through the 70’s, weather observation was collected manually, and for a fairly obvious and logical reason it was taken at the airport. (I am FOR my pilot having up-to-date weather data.) San Diego’s official weather then comes from Lindbergh Field. This of course does not reflect what is happening in other microclimates around the county (as we gloatingly well know in La Mesa). With new technology available manual weather observation was replaced with automated weather observation. Mr. Weather (I’m sorry I did not note his name, both for the sake of manners and to advertize what a helpful person he was!) then walked me over the phone through a part of the website (see below for a link) called the San Diego Mesonet. The site maps and makes available information from automated weather stations all over the county. I learned that although Lindbergh field is still the official weather station for San Diego, there are many private weather stations that feed into the Mesonet, including the one off of Date Street. These stations are not all technologically equal to the very precise instruments used by the National Weather Service and thus are not “official” observation stations, but they do provide very useful information. You can see various indicators across the map such as temperature, wind, and relative humidity (I would think this last one creates a strong visual of the territories affected by the June Gloom). You can also click on a particular weather station and see hourly reports on the indicators from that particular station. Fascinating stuff. Thanks again Mr. Weather.
Of course, when we were kids we didn’t need a weather station to know that we could wear shorts to school when it was 55 in the morning. We just knew instinctively it would be 75 by the time recess rolled around. Just like as adults we know that in June when you leave the office downtown with your jacket on, you can put your sunglasses on and look forward to that rosé on the patio when you get past Fairmont. Neiner neiner neiner! :-)
The San Diego Office’s National Weather Service Forecast Mesonet