California Nevada Climate Applications Program

May Gray / June Gloom

Last update: April 30, 2015

Our 2014 grey/gloom period was 15 days long (2 days fewer than 2013). By the middle of May we had just one grey day with a total of 6 grey days in May. Our gloomiest period was June 27-30; ending the period with 4 days in a row and moving a very low 11 days up to 15 total days for the season. The 2013 grey/gloom period racked up a total of 17 days. We started out with just 5 days in May (2 before the 7th and 3 after the 21st). June started off gloomy with 9 days of gloom between June 1 and 14. The period of May 1 through June 30, 2012, experienced a total of 24 grey/gloom days. There was a long spell of non-gloom days after June 18th, while June 1-18 had 13 gloom days (72% of the days were gloomy). The period of May 1 through June 30, 2011, experienced a total of 21 grey/gloom days. May had only 6 days. June 9-28 had 15 days (75% of the days were gloomy).
The sun-seeking know to avoid southern California beaches in the late spring. A period known to the locals as May Gray and/or June Gloom often darkens the coastal skies of sunny southern California with a layer of marine stratus. During this time, the coastal clouds may remain all day but often give way to some hazy afternoon sunshine. The number of days during this two month period that are gloomy vary from year to year. Cooler ocean temperatures (La Nina conditions) usually foretell a gloomier period.

CASPO (Center for Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography -- formerly the Climate Research Division) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is currently in the throws of a May Gray / June Gloom contest. Employees are invited to forecast the number of days from May 1 to June 30 that will be gloomy.

A Gray / Gloom day is defined as one with a ceiling (broken [BKN] or overcast [OVC] cloud layer) at or below 2,000 feet above ground level at Lindbergh Field (KSAN) for at least 2 out of the 8 hourly weather observations between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

On a typical May Gray / June Gloom day, the visible satellite imagery will show marine stratus hugging the coast of southern California. June 16, 2004, was such a day and the visible satellite image from that day is show below.

June Gloom Visible

The graph (below) shows a climatology (1950-2005) of average percent of possible sunshine. May and June are the months with the lowest percentages at 59% and 58% (respectively).

San Diego Percent Possible Sunshine

Check observations at:

SST anomalies may play a role in forecasting the number of gray/gloom days San Diego will experience. Below are maps of the SST anomalies for November to March of the winter preceeding the May Gray / June Gloom season (2014 through 2004 and 1999 and 1998).

2015: ? grey/gloom days

2014: 15 grey/gloom days

2013: 17 grey/gloom days

2012: 24 grey/gloom days

2011: 21 grey/gloom days

2010: 24 grey/gloom days

2009: 23 grey/gloom days