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Old 07-22-2011, 09:54 PM
748 posts, read 1,591,597 times
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Was at the Outer Banks (Nags Head) this week and VA Beach.

Normally when I go to the Outer Banks in the summer, water temps are in the 70s, and waves are pretty good.
I was stunned this week, when I went to the Outer Banks, the water honestly wasn't any warmer than it is in New England.

I was in VA Beach, and the water was much warmer, 10-15 degrees.

I never have seen the water this cold, and was just so surprised given that it is summer, hot July, and that the Outer Banks are south of Virginia Beach.
Is this just a freakish thing, or is there some reason why the water in the OBX was much colder in the middle of July than VA Beach to the north?

*Disclaimer, I usually go to the OBX in August, so wondering if this is a July think (cold water and low surf)?

Old 07-23-2011, 04:58 AM
Location: Morehead City, NC
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Here's why it felt so cold. Below is a satelitte image of sea surface temperatures. This particular image was taken on July 18. Note the cool blue waters that have come down to the point of Hatteras. This type of pattern usually happens in the fall.
The orange colored water is the gulf stream. Also note some of the circlular patterns. The ocean is composed of warm water and cold water eddies. One rotates clockwise the other counter clockwise. Ususally when you experience an uncommon temperature event it is due to a "finger" from one of these eddies.
Things like this are fascinating to me and i hope I'm not boring everyone. But look beach side of the northern OBX. Now look sound side. There's a Big difference in water temps. By the way-The pink color offshore beyond the gulf stream are clouds/rain

Last edited by Bill Hitchcock; 07-23-2011 at 05:26 AM..
Old 07-23-2011, 05:33 AM
Location: Upstairs closet
4,789 posts, read 7,996,069 times
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Not boring at all, very interesting. Sure shows where the cooler water is. I guess my question is why in the world would ANYONE complain about cool water with all this heat?
Old 07-23-2011, 07:19 AM
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I always found OBX to have the coldest water and the hottest sand.
Old 07-23-2011, 01:31 PM
Location: Yorktown, VA
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Great explanation and illustration Bill! We were just in Kitty Hawk today for a quick visit. Water felt no warmer than when we were there in May. Of course it's hard to tell how much is perception vs reality when it was about 95 degrees before 11am this morning. Whew!
Old 07-23-2011, 05:44 PM
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Thanks Bill, but I still am confused,

I was in VA Beach this week too, and the water there was a nice, warm 75 degrees.
I went on surfline.com, which lists Duck as being 60 degrees, but VA Beach as in the 70s.
heck it lists Maine/NH beaches at 60 degrees, just like the OBX.

I have been a half dozen times in the OBX, normally in August, and never experienced this before:

A) Water cold, much colder than VA Beach to the north
B) Surf, very calm

I'd just like to know
1) Why was the water in the heat of July so cold in the OBX?
-Why was it cold, when 80 miles north in VA Beach it was 10-15 degrees warmer?
-Why is it the OBX was the same water temp as 800 miles north in Maine!!!?

2) Was this a "freak" event or is this common?
-If you go before August, is it likely the OBX will be this way?

3) Why too was the surf this past week SO low? Normally the OBX has great waves.

All in all I just want to know why the water was so cold, moreso than VA Beach and like the New England beaches, why the surf was so little, and if this is common for July so I know better when to go to and get the real OBX experience (hot water and good waves).
Old 07-23-2011, 06:14 PM
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Wait...is it because of upwelling?
Cold Water Temperatures in the Outer Banks Upwelling | OBX Dunes

I just went on surfline:
VA Beach-82
Kitty Hawk-65

This is maybe 70 miles between all points.
I don't get why
1) Kitty Hawk is so much colder, why is it that VA Beach is MUCH MORE reliable with the water temp?
-Is there something about the OBX (and really Nags Head-Duck) which makes it more vulnerable?
2) Why Corolla would be warmer?

It seems Duck-Nags Head for some reason is a dead zone.

Last edited by Hudlander; 07-23-2011 at 06:31 PM..
Old 07-24-2011, 06:42 AM
Location: Morehead City, NC
1,671 posts, read 5,098,910 times
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Oy! How to answer this one in short fashion!
The point of Hatteras is a very interesting cross roads. In general terms-This is where the effects of the Labrador Current (Cold water) and the Gulf Stream (Warm water) meet. The Point of Hatteras is also the closest point where the 100 fathom (a fathom is 6 feet) and 600 fathoms are in proximity to each other and to land.
Up wellings are generally deep water events bringing waters and nutrients up the blake escarpement and continental shelf.
Here's an example. The Big Rock-best known for thre blue marlin tournament sits on the edge of the 100 fathom drop. Upwellings occur their. It also sits on the edge of the Gulf Stream flow. So in esscence-Two different and distinct water flows occur at one place. Add the fact of Structure (the Big Rock) and it becomes a haven for all types of fish.

Now remember I made mention of fingers spinning off of warm & cold water eddies? It's not uncommon to be on the beach of OBX in the fall and be in 50 degree water and drive a quarter mile and be in 70 degree water.
Once you go south of the point of Hatteras you pretty much just feel the effects of the Gulf Stream so water temps remain a bit more consistent.
By the way-The map I posted above is sea water surface temps. Those are not necessarily temps from top to bottom. Although again-Once you get south of Hatteras in the summer time water temps. tend to remain the same from top to bottom-Even down 100-150 feet.
Old 07-24-2011, 07:36 AM
Location: Nags Head,NC
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The low temps are due to upwelling.This often occurs north of Cape Hatteras,when the wind blows in a westerly direction.Click on the animation below.

Observe how upwelling occurs.
Old 07-24-2011, 07:18 PM
748 posts, read 1,591,597 times
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1) Why does upwelling occur in the OBX but not VA Beach? I mean, Nags Head temps are much lower than VA Beach/Ocean City and even the Hamptons. Surely THEY get W winds too.

2) Why is it that it seems Duck-Nags Head suffers more of the cold water upwelling, but Rodanthe/Hatteras Island do not?

It's not uncommon to be on the beach of OBX in the fall and be in 50 degree water and drive a quarter mile and be in 70 degree water.

4) I have been many times, mostly in August. Is this cold water/warm inconsistency more common in July, hence if I go int he future in August unlikely to get it?

5) Why is it the surf was low, and why is is Hatteras Island/Ocracoke are moderately better?

6) Winds. So basically W winds from any direction (W NW SW)=cold, E winds in any direction =warm?
-How about N, S, or no winds?
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