Whether on the Great Lakes or on the coast of an ocean, everyone has felt a lake or sea breeze. A lake breeze is any wind that blows from a large body of water toward or onto a landmass. In the image above, it is displayed that low and high pressures play a key role in the development of these winds. With a lake or sea breeze, high pressure is lower near the surface of the water and low pressure is lower near the surface of the landmass. Wind prefers to travel from high to low pressure so this is where a lake or sea breeze comes from. Air temperature also plays a role in the formation of these winds. During the daytime when the landmass surface has undergone a few hours of solar heating, the air temperature on land rises above the air temperature over the water surface. This helps set up the high and low pressure system, thus creating the land or sea breeze phenomenon.
How do lake or sea breezes affect localized weather and what effects do these breezes have? A lake or sea breeze front is a weather front created by said lake or sea breeze. This front is also commonly known as a convergence zone. This front forms when the cold air from the water meets the warmer air from a landmass, which creates a boundary similar to a shallow cold front. With enough energy, this front can create cumulus clouds and become unstable if there is enough humidity, which can trigger thunderstorm development.
If there is already instability in the surrounding atmosphere, lake or sea breezes can be the factor needed to trigger thunderstorm development. Also, if a lake or sea breeze front collides with another frontal boundary, this too can trigger convection and thunderstorms development. This is commonly seen in the Florida panhandle. Sea breezes from the west coast of Florida and the east coast of Florida collide with one another near the middle of the landmass and cause thunderstorms to develop.
Next time you are on the beach and notice a rather strong breeze coming over the water, that very well could be a lake or sea breeze. Also, to confirm this, look inland and see if cumulus clouds are visible. This is a good indicator that a lake or sea breeze has initiated cloud development over land.
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©2019 Weather Forecaster Alec Kownacki