A sea breeze or onshore breeze is any wind that blows from a large body of water toward or onto a landmass; it develops due to differences in air pressure created by the differing heat capacities of water and dry land. As such, sea breezes are more localised than prevailing winds. Because land absorbs solar radiation far more quickly than water, a sea breeze is a common occurrence along coasts after sunrise. By contrast, a land breeze or offshore breeze is the reverse effect: dry land also cools more quickly than water and, after sunset, a sea breeze dissipates and the wind instead flows from the land towards the sea. Sea breezes and land breezes are both important factors in coastal regions' prevailing winds. The term offshore wind may refer to any wind over open water.
Wind farms are often situated near a coast to take advantage of the normal daily fluctuations of wind speed resulting from sea or land breezes. While many onshore wind farms and offshore wind farms do not rely on these winds, a nearshore wind farm is a type of offshore wind farm located on shallow coastal waters to take advantage of both sea and land breezes. (For practical reasons, other offshore wind farms are situated further out to sea and rely on prevailing winds rather than sea breezes.)
The sea has a greater heat capacity than land, so the surface of the sea warms up more slowly than the land's. As the temperature of the surface of the land rises, the land heats the air above it by convection. The warming air expands and becomes less dense, decreasing the pressure over the land near the coast. The air above the sea has a relatively higher pressure, causing air near the coast to flow towards the lower pressure over land. The strength of the sea breeze is directly proportional to the temperature difference between the land and the sea. If a strong offshore wind is present (that is, a wind greater than 8 knots (15 km/h)) and opposing the direction of a possible sea breeze, the sea breeze is not likely to develop.
A sea-breeze front is a weather front created by a sea breeze, also known as a convergence zone. The cold air from the sea meets the warmer air from the land and creates a boundary like a shallow cold front. When powerful this front creates cumulus clouds, and if the air is humid and unstable, the front can sometimes trigger thunderstorms. If the flow aloft is aligned with the direction of the sea breeze, places experiencing the sea breeze frontal passage will have benign, or fair, weather for the remainder of the day. At the front warm air continues to flow upward and cold air continually moves in to replace it and so the front moves progressively inland. Its speed depends on whether it is assisted or hampered by the prevailing wind, and the strength of the thermal contrast between land and sea. At night, the sea breeze usually changes to a land breeze, due to a reversal of the same mechanisms.
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Sea breeze Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.