Weather in the Foothills

“Today was about chasing sun-rays, beach waves, and sunsets. All things beautiful that give you peace are worth chasing. Everything else isn’t.”    ~ April Mae Monterrosa, author

The ocean and Valentine’s Day don’t typically go hand-in-hand in thought or conversation. Last Sunday was the exception. What to do on Valentine’s Day, beyond the box of chocolates and flowers, can be difficult to decide upon. Where to go for a romantic dinner can be daunting when most restaurants are not open for business. Apparently, Mother Nature considered our plight and offered up a fine showing of weather. Ordinarily February is the wettest month during the year.

Under blue windblown skies we (husband, dog and I) took off for the coast­ – a bit north of Santa Barbara. There’s a stand of old eucalyptus trees there planted by the railroads as a source of wood to build tracks. The trees remain, but the area is now a designated and protected monarch butterfly sanctuary. Just beyond, there’s a bluff that overlooks the ocean and a beach at the foot of the bluff’s rock cliff. There we settled until the sun set and first star appeared. Because the winds were unrelenting, it was beyond cold. With possible frostbite, we headed to Starbucks!

Wind is the number one contributor to the formation of waves as it blows across the ocean’s surface. Each wave transfers energy to the next wave, thus enabling energy transfer over large distances without much actual movement of the mass of water. The faster the wind, the longer it blows; the farther it can blow uninterrupted, the bigger the waves. Therefore, a wave’s size depends on wind speed, wind duration and the fetch (area) in which the wind is blowing. These many factors, plus the variability, makes the formation of waves in all shapes and sizes. The smallest categories of waves are ripples and are less than one foot high. The largest waves occur when there are big expanses of open water that wind can affect. Places famous for big waves include Waimea Bay in Hawaii, Jaws (Peʻahi) in Maui, Mavericks in California, Mullaghmore Head in Ireland, and Teahupo’o in Tahiti. Some of the biggest waves are generated by storms, such as hurricanes. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan created waves that averaged a height of around 60 feet and the largest were almost 100 feet high. In 2019, Hurricane Dorian also produced a wave exceeding 100 feet in the northern Atlantic. At our location, along the Pacific Ocean, the big wave producers are tropical storms to the west and those in Alaska.

A warm-up is added to the weather picture. North to north-easterly winds persist keeping the skies clear, the waves crashing and the sunsets stellar.