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!

Galveston Weather and Water Report - Tue, Sept 26, 2023

Gulf waters remain clear and warm as we welcome a full moon weekend.

The Gulf of Mexico waters remain clear and warm. Several factors have contributed to exceptional water clarity in recent months. While the severe drought in the region has been unfortunate in many ways, long-term dry conditions have lowered the flow of area rivers that discharge along coastal Texas and Louisiana, reducing the amount of sediment in the water. We have also observed lighter-than-normal winds over the past several months, with many days observing light offshore winds in the morning. These conditions have produced long stretches of clear, blue water along the Upper Texas Coast.

Water temperatures have reached near-record high levels throughout the Gulf of Mexico this summer. Galveston observed numerous days when the peak water temperature maxed out around 91-92 degrees F in the late afternoon. While the water temp is slowly decreasing now, the absence of strong cold fronts this month has allowed water temps to stay very warm through all of September. Recently, the water temps have been observed around 86F in the morning and 87F in the afternoon.

Seasonal Changes in Sun Duration and Sun Angles

If you pay close attention to the water temps day-by-day, you may wonder why the late afternoon water temp is only a degree or two higher than the morning temp, whereas the difference between the daily minimum and maximum water temps is more commonly 3-4 degrees F from late spring through mid-summer.

This change has to do with reduced sun angles, as the direct rays of the sun are no longer hitting the Northern Hemisphere after the first day of autumn. Sun angles in Galveston peak around 83 degrees above the horizon in late June, which means the sun is almost directly overhead daily. By late September, however, the sun angle is only reaching around 58 degrees at Solar Noon, which now falls at 1:09PM. The duration of daylight is now less than 12 hours as well, because we are after the Autumnal Equinox. Sunrise on Friday was at 7:11AM and sunset at 7:07PM, yielding 11 hours and 56 minutes of sunlight.

Reduced sun angles benefit beach visitors, especially those with fair skin. While it's still possible to get a sunburn if exposed to hours of direct sunlight, sunburn potential this time of the year is much less than in the spring and summer months. Yet, we are still enjoying this time window when the air and water are both very warm, providing perfect beach conditions.

Full Moon This Weekend

Warm weather and water will continue through the forecast period, with high temps in the upper 80s and lows around 80 degrees F for the upcoming weekend into early next week. This time of the year, we start looking to the north for approaching cold fronts for a change in the weather pattern. Some of the models indicate we could possibly see the first cold frontal passage on Friday, October 6, but there is much uncertainty in this prediction. In the short term, warm to hot air and water temps will continue in the region.

Despite the continued warm weather, a weak disturbance was tracking through the area, providing a 50% chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms Friday, dropping to a 30% chance by Sunday. We enjoyed a Friday morning downpour at my mid-city residence, followed by sunshine around 10 minutes later.

The increase in showers and thunderstorms in the region has provided spectacular colors at sunrise and sunset every day. On Thursday evening, a massive thunderstorm near eastern Houston illuminated the sky with bright pink and orange pastels when viewed from Galveston. We expect such beautiful colors to continue over the upcoming days.

Preparing for The Heart of Fall Festival Season

As more comfortable weather arrives in October, we will welcome the heart of fall festival season on the Island. Don't miss out on the next Art Walk in downtown Galveston on Sat, Oct 7. Many art galleries will showcase new creations, and some will serve wine with hors d'oeuvres. Live music will provide a vibrant setting in the city streets.

comes to Galveston on Sat, Oct 14, promising to excite visitors who love pub crawls and poker. Participants collect poker chips at designated stops (that serve amazing food and drinks) downtown, then take their chips back to Murphy's Pub to draw a 7-Card Stud poker hand for the chance to win a Grand Prize of a $1500 travel voucher.

While it's too early to provide a detailed weather forecast for mid-October, the weather is typically very comfortable that time of the year. Average high temperatures for October 14 are 83F and average lows are 69F.

Over the upcoming weeks, I will be providing more weather updates and a look at exciting events going on in October on our beautiful tropical Island! Have a great weekend everyone!

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