This article is specific to sea breezes in the St Petersburg, Tampa Bay area. Though the sea breeze effect tries to happen every day, spring is when they are predominant and strongest. Sea breezes are not always in the forecast so knowing what to look for will help you identity one.
What is a Sea Breeze
A sea breeze is when the wind blows from any body of water towards or onto land. For St Petersburg this would mean the wind would come from the west, so northwest, west or southwest. The most common wind direction for a sea breeze will be a northwest wind. Signs of a sea breeze will begin early afternoon when the wind shifts to the northwest and the first place to typically show signs of a sea breeze will be the Clearwater Pier Sensor.
How Does a Sea Breeze Form
A sea breeze forms due to differences in temperature between the land and the water. The land will heat faster than the water causing the air above it to rise. The cooler, denser air over the water will rush in towards land. At night the reverse effect happens where the land cools off faster than the water causing the wind to shift to an offshore wind.
Signs of a Sea Breeze
The following are signs that a sea breeze will form.
- Big change in temperature from night to day. If its cool at night, chances are the Gulf cooled off too so when the land warms up during the day, an afternoon sea breeze is possible.
- Sunny skies. The sun needs to be out for most of the day to heat up the land.
- Cumulus clouds inland. Cumulus clouds will mark the boundary of the sea breeze.
- Dry air. Dry air will make it easier for a sea breeze to form and will give it strength.
- Northeast wind in the morning. If there’s a strong northeasterly wind in the morning, chances are there will be a strong northwesterly in the afternoon.
What to look for if you’re kiteboarding
Spring is a common time of the year for 15-20 kt sea breezes to form. The Gulf of Mexico is still relatively cool, the sun is strong and the air is dry, which makes a perfect combination for a sea breeze. If there’s a cool, northeasterly wind in the morning and the sun is out, chances are there will be a strong northwest in the afternoon. If the wind is light and out of the east, then a sea breeze can still form. If a front has pushed through and the straight easterly wind is strong, then it will be more difficult for the sea breeze to form.
If a sea breeze is forming, the Clearwater Beach Pier sensor on Ikitesurf is one of the first sensors to pick it up. It should read a north/ northwest wind between 10-15 kts by 1pm. The sea breeze will make its way south and may take another hour to reach the St Pete Beach area. The sensor to look at for the St Pete Beach area is the Egmont Channel sensor. It may take an additional hour for the sea breeze to make its way further inland where the Skyway Bridge is.