People may praise L.A.'s copious supply of sunshine or wax poetic about the Santa Ana Winds, but if there's one weather event in Southern California that is woefully underappreciated, it's June Gloom. It's the calm before the summer swelter, the two or three months of moody and mild weather that precede the scalding months of July, August and September.
The May Gray/June Gloom phenomena are seen all over the Pacific Coast, though they're especially pronounced in Southern California (since a foggy day isn't exactly noteworthy in Seattle or San Francisco). Essentially, what happens is that the air starts to warm up in May, but the waters of the Pacific Ocean are still relatively cold. That causes condensation, which creates a marine layer — a thin layer of low-lying clouds over the ocean, which forms overnight and then creeps over the land during the morning. There are a few other factors involved, including something called the Catalina Eddy, where the island redirects upper-level northwesterly air flow onto the Southland.
So a typical May or June features relatively cool nights and gray, foggy mornings, giving way in the afternoon to mostly sunny skies, as much of the moisture evaporates. These two months are, on average, the cloudiest months in Los Angeles, although it seldom rains.
Not every June is so gloomy. Last year, if you'll recall, there was no June Gloom — thanks in part to the drought, as well as El Niño.
“We didn’t get it,” says Kathy Hoxsi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “A lot of that had to do with lack of moisture. We had pretty good rain this year. All of our waterways have a lot of water, therefore there's a lot of moisture this year.”
According to the National Weather Service's most recent outlook for L.A., “The long-range forecast looks to bring us the seasonal June Gloom.”
So what's so great about June Gloom? Well, for one thing, every cool, overcast day means one less oppressively hot summer day, one less day where you have to run the air conditioner all night.
And despite the name — which is obviously amazing — June Gloom isn't all that gloomy. In fact, it's perfect, at least in a Goldilocks kind of way. It's not too hot, not too cold. It hardly ever rains. It may not be great beach weather, but you can do anything you want in June Gloom. You can go for a hike or have a picnic, you can wear shorts in the afternoon and a cardigan at night, you can comfortably run on a field or play baseball or soccer, as the ground gets nice and soft.
No one ever complains about June Gloom. In fact, when June Gloom skipped 2016, Curbed L.A. wrote: “That's not just a bummer for those of us hoping to enjoy a brief period of sweater weather before things heat up for the summer. A less-than-robust period of gloomy days means less moisture for plants and vegetation in the mountains and hills to soak up, and that could mean that fire season could get an early start.”
I say this parade of mid-70-degree days, this quietly, hazily beautiful month deserves to be celebrated. It may not be as aesthetically pleasing as autumn in New York or spring in Tokyo, but like so many things in L.A., June Gloom has a kind of subtle beauty to it, a quiet grace. There ought to be short stories written about it, songs sung, movies made about this uniquely Southern Californian thing, where the light is soft and the air feels so perfect there's nothing to even say about it.