When dreaming of Southern California beaches in the weeks leading up to summer, one envisions endless stretches of sun-kissed sand and blue skies as far as the eye can see. However, May brought an unexpected turn of events to the coastal paradise, with San Diego claiming the title of the cloudiest city in the Lower 48. And it turns out, its neighboring city of Los Angeles wasn’t too far behind either.
Throughout May, San Diego experienced an average cloud cover of 82.5% during the day, painting the skies a rather gloomy gray. From May 12 to 31, 18 days were considered overcast, with two other days barely managing to muster enough sunshine to be classified as partly sunny amidst 70% cloud cover.
Comparing these figures to long-term weather records, San Diego’s overall average cloud cover in May stands at 63.9%, making this year’s cloudiness quite notable.
The temperatures in San Diego also reflected the cloud-covered skies, with the airport only reaching 70 degrees twice during the month. In fact, the overall average high temperature of 66.5 degrees tied for the fifth-coolest on record.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles, specifically LAX Airport, tied for second place in cloudiness with Greensboro, North Carolina, at 74.5% cloud cover. Astonishingly, even Anchorage, Alaska, known for its chilly climate, experienced a lower cloud cover average of 74.2% in May compared to the Southern California beaches.
Only one place surpassed San Diego’s cloudiness in May, and that was the remote reaches of the Arctic. Utqiagvik, Alaska, narrowly edged out San Diego with an impressive 84.5% cloud cover. However, the Arctic town’s average high temperature of 30 degrees hardly aligns with beach weather.
Cloudy days in late spring and early summer are not entirely uncommon for coastal Southern California. Locals have coined the terms “May Gray” and “June Gloom” to describe this meteorological phenomenon. The sun’s warmth battles against the cool ocean waters, which remain in the 50s and lower 60s, resulting in fog and marine clouds that are carried inland by the nightly onshore marine breezes.
Usually, these cloudy days are interspersed with periods of warmer, offshore winds that keep the gloomy marine clouds at bay. However, last month was an exception to this pattern. Persistent onshore flow has locked the region into a prolonged bout of low clouds and fog hugging the coastline, extending the gloomy weather well into June.
While beachgoers and sun-seekers may have found themselves disappointed, the locals understand that these cloudy days are a part of the coastal charm. As the sun gradually burns through the marine layer in the afternoon, the fog reappears overnight, creating a cycle that the region has come to accept.
For now, San Diego embraces its title as the cloudiest spot in the Lower 48, a reminder that even in sunny California, surprises await in the ever-changing skies above.