Local Meteorologist Provides Weekly Galveston Beach Updates | Visit Galveston

Local Meteorologist Provides Weekly Galveston Beach Updates

Here, we'll bring you the latest updates on Galveston Beach conditions from a trusted source — your local meteorologist Dr. Hal Needham!

Researchers say the large seaweed blob is unlikely to affect Galveston beaches majorly. Stay up-to-date with details about this natural environmental event, learn about the ecological benefits of Sargassum, Galveston beach water conditions, and more in this blog.

Latest Galveston Beach Updates

In an effort to keep the public informed, Dr. Hal Needham will be providing weekly beach updates for Galveston, Texas throughout the summer here on this blog.

Galveston Beaches
Update: June 2, 2023

Sunny skies, light winds, and calm, blue water continue to dominate the forecast through the weekend on Galveston Island. These conditions continue an exceptional stretch of amazing beach weather.

Under sunny skies, Friday’s temp will reach 86F, as a light east wind turns to a south wind in the afternoon. Expect similar conditions on Saturday and Sunday, with high temps in the upper 80s. Winds through the period should remain light.

Water conditions should generally remain calm, with wave heights under 2 feet. Water clarity will be good to great, and the water color will be bluer than normal.

Rip current conditions should be low to moderate, but swimmers are advised to avoid swimming near rock groins and jetties, where previous rips may have scoured out sand, creating deeper water.

Sargassum/ seaweed has not been observed in noticeable quantities on the beach or in the water along Galveston City beaches.

Water temperatures have been around 84F in the morning and 86F in the late afternoon/ evening.

Overall, the beach weather is forecast to be exceptionally good along the Upper Texas Coast this weekend, with excellent conditions for swimming, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.

Surfer friends have asked if Tropical Depression Two in the eastern Gulf will generate any big swells in Texas. Unfortunately for surfing, that tropical system is not well developed and does not have a big enough wind field to generate Texas swells from the eastern Gulf.

Why are the winds/water so calm this summer?

The winds and water have been exceptionally calm so far this summer in the western Gulf, because the strong high pressure that usually forms to our east and gives us persistent onshore winds at 10-15 mph, has not developed.

This means lighter winds from a variety of directions and generally calm, blue water. This pattern also means less humidity and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures. We should expect the water temp to reach at least 86F in the upcoming afternoons.

The reduced humidity levels have enabled our evening temps to drop lower than in previous summers. This has created very comfortable weather every evening, and this pattern should continue through the weekend. Visitors at Saturday evening's Art Walk in downtown Galveston should enjoy temps in the low 80s, light winds and less humidity than normal for early summer.

Previous Updates
Galveston Beaches
Update: May 30, 2023

Sunny weather and calm, blue water conditions continue this week along the Upper Texas Coast. These conditions continue our exceptional stretch of calm winds and water that have created excellent conditions for beach recreation!

Winds on Tuesday and Wednesday will be light from the east at 5-10 mph Tuesday and 5-15 mph Wednesday. Expect a southeast wind around 10 mph Thursday.

Wave heights will be 1-2 feet on Tuesday and Wednesday and 2-3 feet on Thursday. These are generally calm to moderate (Thursday) waves that are great for swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding.

Water clarity continues to be good to great. A friend of mine was wade fishing from shore on West Beach this past weekend and could see his feet in thigh-deep water.

Rip current risk remains low to moderate through the period.

The water temperature has been around 82F at sunrise and 84F late afternoon/ evening. Air temperatures are expected to be in the mid to upper 70s in the morning and mid-80s in the afternoon.

The generally calm conditions have reduced the transport of humid, marine air, slightly reducing humidity levels so far this summer. In short, we’ve enjoyed an exceptional start to the summer and this should continue during the upcoming week.

Sargassum Seaweed Forecast

Very low amounts of sargassum seaweed have impacted the Upper Texas Coast so far this summer. Seaweed and other marine vegetation are barely visible on the beach, and no floating seaweed has been visible in the water.

That said, the presence of seaweed is increasing in the central and western Gulf, as it continues to move into the Gulf now from the Yucatán Channel.

The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) has increased the seaweed inundation risk for some locations in the northern and western Gulf, although the inundation risk for the upper Texas coast remains low for the next week.

Portions of the Louisiana coast now have moderate to high risk, including an area of high risk in southwest Louisiana, just west of Vermillion Bay. Portions of the central Texas Coast, near Rockport/ Port Aransas, now have a moderate risk.

Satellite-derived maps show moderate amounts of sargassum now in the central and western Gulf, more than 150 miles away from Galveston at the present time. We will continue monitoring the latest sargassum seaweed tracking and inundation products.

Galveston Beaches
Update: May 26, 2023

High pressure continues to dominate the weather along the Upper Texas Coast, bringing plentiful sunshine, light winds, blue water, and relatively calm conditions throughout the holiday weekend. This continues a long stretch of blue water and calm conditions that we’ve enjoyed all week.

Gentle winds (5-10 mph) on Friday and Saturday will blow from the north or northeast in the morning, creating flat/ calm water conditions with waves 0-1 feet. Fishermen casting from rock groins, jetties and piers will find the calmest water on the southwest side of these structures Friday and Saturday morning.

A sea breeze will develop on Friday and Saturday afternoon, gently blowing winds from the southeast winds at 5-10 mph. The sea breeze will slightly raise wave heights to 1-2 feet as the wind will blow onshore.

More sunshine and light winds prevail on Sunday, with south winds at 5-10 mph in the morning, shifting to gentle east winds in the afternoon. Wave heights will be 1-2 feet.

The water color should remain blue, and water clarity should be good to great through Monday morning. Water conditions should generally remain calm.

Expect a mix of sun and clouds on Memorial Day (Monday), with a stray shower or thunderstorm. Southeast winds will increase to 10-15 mph Monday afternoon, creating moderate chop, 2-3 foot waves, and more white water.

Rip current risk will be low to moderate Friday through Sunday and moderate on Monday. Rip currents always exist to some degree in the coastal environment, and swimmers are advised to avoid swimming near structures, rock groins, jetties and piers.

Water temperatures are warm and normal for late May, with morning water temps around 81F and late afternoon/ evening temps around 83F.

Overall, we are expecting an exceptional holiday weekend with abundant sunshine, light winds, and generally calm, blue water.

Galveston Beaches
Update: May 23, 2023

High pressure is dominating the weather along the Upper Texas Coast, which means sunny, hot conditions with calm winds. This pattern produces calm water with low rip current risk.

The water clarity this week should remain excellent, as the sediment has dropped out of this tranquil water. The difference between this week and the end of last week, is that we should expect a nice stretch of blue water days this week.

Although the water clarity was great last week and weekend, persistent cloud cover gave the water a silver-grey color, as calm water reflects the sky above it like a mirror. With silver-grey water color on Sunday morning, I was surprised to find excellent water clarity on a 30-min saltwater swim. I could clearly see the bottom, as well as my hands extended in front of me, and the underwater color looked green-grey.

In addition to excellent water clarity, we should expect to see amazing blue water this week, as the lake-like conditions reflect a blue sky. What a start to the summer!

Sargassum Seaweed Forecast

A very low amount of sargassum seaweed has washed ashore in recent days. Scattered clusters of sargassum can be found near the high tide line on the beach, and an occasional clump of sargassum can be seen in the water. In my 30-min swim on Sunday I encountered no sargassum. Seaweed is completely a non-issue now for all beach and water activities.

Galveston Beaches
Update: May 19, 2023

High pressure, sunshine and light winds should prevail over the upcoming weekend. Expect a mix of sun and clouds, with air temps in the mid-80s during the day and mid- to upper-70s at night. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Water conditions remain calm as sunshine and light winds dominate our weather along the upper Texas Coast. Water clarity has been excellent, and the color is bluer as sediment has dropped out of the water under these calm conditions.

Sargassum seaweed inundation has been very light. A small amount of dried-out seaweed is visible closer to the dunes from previous high tides, while some small clumps that would fit in our hands are scattered on the beach closer to the water.

This amount of sargassum is completely normal for this time of year, and the presence of seaweed is a non-issue right now for beach activities. Yesterday, I went for a 30-min saltwater swim and only encountered seaweed one time, when my arm contacted a small clump that would fit in my hand.

The upcoming weekend looks excellent, with very light seaweed, abundant sunshine, light winds and calm waters. Under such conditions, the water temp warms quickly. Water temps have been around 80F at sunrise and 83F late afternoon/ evening.

The biggest hazard at this time is likely sunburn, as sun angles are high in mid-May. The time of highest sunburn potential is 1115AM - 315PM, as sun angles at Solar Noon (115PM) are now exceeding 80 degrees.

Galveston Beaches
Update: May 18, 2023

On Thursday, May 18, 2023, a small amount of seaweed washed up on the Galveston Beach. This image was taken looking NE along the beach at 57th St. It looked like a light amount of seaweed that would not obstruct a beach visit.

What is Sargassum?

Sargassum (noun): a brown seaweed with berrylike air bladders, typically forming large floating masses.

Sargassum is a natural part of the environment. Much of it forms in the Sargasso Sea, an area of relatively calm seas just north of the eastern Caribbean. Sargassum then drifts with the currents from east to west through the Caribbean, then into the Gulf of Mexico, through the Yucatán Channel.

Map of the Sargasso Sea

The most vulnerable areas in our basin generally include the Florida Keys/ South Florida and SE Louisiana through the Florida Panhandle. It is rare that a large sargassum landing would impact the upper Texas Coast, but it has happened before in 2014.

The Benefits of Sargassum

Despite what some beachgoers may think about its appearance, seaweed isn’t all bad. In fact, seaweed has many environmental benefits. Sargassum serves as a floating ecosystem for marine life. Here, eels breed, turtle hatchlings find sanctuary and scores of other species thrive. Sargassum also serves as a protective barrier from beach erosion.

Galveston Beaches

Join Artist Boat for Bucket Brigade Interpretive Beach Tours to explore the creatures and features that make Galveston beaches unique! There is more to the Sargassum and turbid water than many people think, and there is much more to be found on the beach than just sand.

Tours are educational and fun for ocean lovers of all ages. Hands-on activities investigate topics including Galveston’s turbid water, marine debris, Sargassum landings, and more! All ages welcome!

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Dr. Hal Needham Meteorologist