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The Winds of Spring in Baja and Beyond

Baja California is notorious for enhanced northwesterly wind events. Northbound transits to the US West Coast can therefore be challenging in the spring. Likewise, surges of winds along the coast of Central America can change from benign conditions to gale/storm very quickly.

Tehuantepec Northerly graphic
An example of a Gulf of Tehuantepec northerly wind surge.
© 2022

Emily Gilot, meteorologist for Weather Routing Inc., highlights some key discussion points about dominant weather patterns and common locations of wind surges along the Baja California and the Pacific coast of Central America:

  • The predominantly north-northwesterly wind regime across Baja California and the Sea of Cortez is produced by high pressure over the northeastern Pacific interacting with a thermal trough that tends to extend from Southern California southeastward toward Cabo Corrientes.
  • The winds can be locally enhanced by the geography along Baja and northwestern Mexican Riviera via funneling and by a diurnal strengthening of the thermal trough, increasing its interaction with the high pressure offshore.
  • High pressure over the Gulf of Mexico and the northern Caribbean drive the northeasterly wind surge through the Gulf of Tehuantepec, as well as the east-northeasterly surges through the Gulf of Fonseca and the Gulf of Papagayo.
  • The Central American wind surges can last a few days to a few weeks. They can generate gale to sometimes storm-force conditions.
  • For both areas, it is important to keep bailout ports in mind and incorporate extra time into one’s itinerary to wait out strong wind surges.

To help mariners with planning their coastal cruise or delivery, WRI offers this webinar, available to watch on their website anytime. It includes an overview of the current and forecast weather pattern along Baja and Central America, using to illustrate the features discussed.

1 Comment

  1. Craig Russell 2 years ago

    It was about 2 years ago we started our bash up the coast to SF. We departed Zihuatenjo and headed up the coast. The worst of it (15′ seas and 30-knot winds) was along the Baja peninsula and up thru Big Sur. We had to pause in Santa Barbara for 4 days due to heavy winds. We made it under the Golden Gate 5 weeks later and vowed to never do it again! We motored almost the entire way.

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