Weather Whys

There is a phenomenon here along the Maine coast that I have observed over and over again. Weather comes with the tides. When I say weather I mean weather for which adequate clothing is a challenge. As they say, there is no such thing as bad weather. Just a bad choice of clothing. Take that with a grain of salt from the guy whose favorite summer challenge is to wear shorts from the first day we leave the dock to the day we take the sails off.

“A bone in her teeth” Image by Neal Parent

Today’s forecast for Penobscot Bay includes a storm warning with wind gusts up to 55 knots. I should explain: knots means nautical miles per hour. A nautical mile is about 6,076 feet; about 15% longer than a land mile. That same wind measured onland would be 63 miles an hour. Strong enough to blow the melted butter off a biscuit! Hurricane force winds start at 64 knots. Thank goodness we won’t have a hurricane in Maine today. Actually we seldom do have hurricanes here because of the Gulf of Maine’s cold water temperatures.

See how the wind is predicted to crest at 6 PM?

So the part of all of this that fascinates me is how the weather along the Maine coast moves with the tides. Take a look at the hourly forecast for Camden. It is readily apparent that the peak of the rain and wind occurs at about 6 o’clock tonite. Guess what time the high tide is?

From 8:00 o’clock this morning.

The peak of today’s “weather” and the high tide coincide quite closely. Were it not for daylight saving time (DST) the synchronicity would be even more apparent. Evidently, the weather doesn’t observe DST.

I can’t tell you how often this happens. Like all the time. In with the tide, out with the tide; meaning that most weather events here along the coast only last about 12 hours. The onshore breeze in the summer works the same way more often than not. If you had a birds-eye view of Penobscot Bay on a hot summer day (yes, we have days when the temperatures soar into the 70s) you could see the wind roll up the bay from Owls Head to Castine. Do you know how frustrating it is to be sitting becalmed for hours off the north end of North Haven and see a schooner “bringing the wind” with it blow by just as the wind line gets to you? I have had to start the yawl and burn dinosaur bones to push through the Oak I. Passage on more than one occasion. Hauling the yawl boat before you clear North Haven is sometimes a dicey proposition. Once up, no captain ever wants to put the yawl boat back down. No sooner do you put the boat down and then the wind is blowing 20. Sometimes just shaking the yawl boat falls can fool the wind into picking up.

So why does all of this work the way it does? I am no meteorologist but my best guess is water temperature. Every change of the tidal currents that flush water in and out of Penobscot Bay at 1-2 knots, depending on the phase of the moon and where you are in the bay, mixes things up. Cooler water and the air just above it from offshore gets carried into the bay on the tide. Warmer air aloft heads offshore to replace the cooler air being carried in in the tide. Warmer water inshore gets mixed with cooler water from offshore. Cooler water down deep mixes with warmer water near the surface (in the summer). Sometimes you can physically see the place where they meet.

And what creates the tides? The largest part is created by the gravitational pull of our moon. Do you suppose that the same gravitational force moves moisture, and the heat associated with it, that is stored in the atmosphere? The entire atmosphere is kinda like the ocean with currents circulating north and south, east and west, up and down. To think about it in 3-D is mind-boggling.

So I am going to leave this natural phenomenon right there. Again, I am not a scientist. I am only an observer and not an especially keen one at that. But I have seen these patterns repeat themselves so many times and yet it never ceases to amaze my child-like sense of wonder. I kinda like not knowing the full scientific explanation. I have amassed enough nickel knowledge to be dangerous. But there is still a lot in this world that goes on without any explanation whatsoever. Some things are best left to my favorite explanation… PFM (pure freakin’ magic).

Have a great day, Be well. Do good. And wash your hands when you’re finished.