Through the marine layer

I began this morning’s commute in the classic “May Gray” when inland high temperatures 100 miles away creates a pressure gradient, which sucks the “marine layer” of fog into the California coast. Here’s the view over the top of this layer from Mount Tamalpais this morning.

Sun's up. Warming top of marine layer clouds & elevations above 2000'. #bayarea

— Mike Nicco (@MikeNiccoABC7) May 22, 2014

This heavy fog hydrates the coastal redwood forest I bike through from my home near Santa Cruz, California. I live at elevation 500 feet (150 m) and bike north to 1900 feet (580 m) above sea level before dropping down to my office at sea level in the next county.

This morning, I had hoped to break through the marine layer into sunshine above to take my own photo of the top of the clouds, but alas, the local office of the National Weather Service reported that this morning’s marine layer topped out well above my route at 2500 feet (760 m).
When this marine layer is a little lower, I experience a wonderful view of heavy fog in the valleys below me.

Once I cross the summit and into Santa Clara County, I rode on dry pavement. Once I dropped out of the redwood forest near Lexington Reservoir, I was in brilliant sunshine and blue skies.

Anybody who regularly drives on Highway 17 to Santa Cruz has experienced the appearance of this sudden wall of fog near the summit. It certainly seems marvelous enough while driving, but I think biking through the foggy redwoods — in which you’re completely exposed to the sounds, smells, sights and feelings — enhances the magic.

A bonus about May Gray: this offshore flow is a sure sign I’ll have a tailwind once I get over the hump of the Santa Cruz Mountains into sunshiny Santa Clara County.

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