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The Weird Wind and Weather Continue

“Attached is a photo taken from the El Cerrito hills, on the Bay, in the late afternoon of May 24 — I’ve seen this phenomenon many times but this is the first time I documented it,” wrote Larry Radcliffe.

Can you see the ‘streaks’?
© 2020 Larry Radcliffe

“It shows what looks to me like bands of wind changes in the moderate breeze. Does anyone know what causes the phenomenon observed?  And of importance to racers on the Circle, is it indicative of wind shifts or puffs?

“Just curious.”

Excellent question, Larry. After 15 years of sailing in Berkeley (but usually on the Marina side as opposed to the Circle), I can attest to these occasional ‘streaks’ of wind. On more than a few occasions, I’ve been rigging, and have watched a 25-knot gust envelop the Marina, followed by a near-glassy patch behind it, with another 25-knot gust behind that, and so on.

What’s more, this type of on/off wind seems to have characterized the Bay Area’s weather for the last few weeks — especially at the beginning of the month. Many of my dedicated sailing friends say the weather has been indicative of gusty spring conditions, where the wind is far less ‘stable’ than the summer sea breezes, and typically has more north in it.

Anyway, Latitude Nation, we’re putting the question to you. What’s been going on? Is this “phenomenon’ simply part of any normal weather variance that, once  sailors — frustrated by the conditions — start to mull it over in their obsessive minds, suddenly becomes an inexplicable aberration? Or is there a really cool explanation behind this? Or is everything about the world broken right now, including the wind?

Please comment below, or write us here.

6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Richard Jepsen 10 months ago

    Competing air masses? sometimes with a sea breeze in a gradient that is northerly, the two seem to fight. Also, in Berkeley Marina, especially, I’ve noticed, near the end of a large temperature inversion that had knocked the sea breeze down in previous days, that the wind gets like you described, no further out than 1/4 mile SW of the marina entrance. Unsure if the retreating inversion is creating a bubble of stable air that is increasingly accosted by the new sea breeze. I know inversions can prevent the sea breeze get through gaps or over East Bay hills, killing the westerly near the Berkeley Shore, so seems reasonable that a retreating inversion might give spotty openings to the new sea breeze.

  2. Avatar
    Colin Moore 10 months ago

    I see these streaks from my window part way up the Berkeley hills during most times of the year. The streaks don’t move much at all once there. I wonder if they reflect waves in the wind flow caused by the ridge north of the GG bridge as they seem parallel to the ridge. If they are waves in the wind flow they have a range of different wavelengths, perhaps dependent on wind speed. Angel Island might interfere with them showing up on the Circle. Anyway what I want to know is how to take advantage of them sailing. I have a photo too.

  3. Avatar
    Kandice 10 months ago

    Yes I’d love to know as well. As an avid cyclist the wind lately has been a real pain much more so than previous years I feel. It’s like you feel you’re in your own little tornado all the time ! I’m new to sailing and haven’t been out when the wind has been devilish.

  4. Avatar
    Lon 10 months ago

    Might be waves coming in the gate. Not the wind.

    • Avatar
      Larry Radcliffe 10 months ago

      I think its definitely a surface wind phenomenon, not swells.

  5. Avatar
    Martin Thomas 10 months ago

    I have observed these also both from the hills and on the water sailing out of Berkeley Marina. I think the wind is skipping over the water surface. the wind has waves that touch the water then bounce up off the surface for some distance before curving down to hit the water again. As to what causes the waves of wind my best guess is the wind hits the east bay hills and sort of crumples and backs up.

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