My grandma is sick of the gloom. She’s ready to go somewhere to find the sun. She has lived her entire life in the Los Angeles area, and she wondered aloud the other day, “Can you remember a year that was this gloomy for so long?”

“Funny you say that because I had been wondering the same thing so a couple days ago I got out my calendars where I keep temperature records.”

I only have them going back through the spring of 2015, but over those past eight Mays there have been two similar years: 2016 and 2019.

In 2016, we had three minor warm-ups that May where the temperature peaked at 84, then 83, then 82 degrees during each of the warm spells.

In May of 2019, we also had three minor warm-ups. During those the temperature peaked at 78, then 79, and then 82 degrees.

How does this May of 2023 compare? This May had a single warm-up which reached 84 degrees on two days, and the warm spell lasted just over a week, near Mother’s Day. However, the warmer middle of the month was bookended by a week of highs in the 60’s and a rain on May 4, and another week at the end of the month that was full of marine layer drizzle with highs between 60 and 73 degrees.

The last day of May set a daily record for lowest high temperatures at 62 in my town of Ramona and 66 in Anaheim. On that day, I was in Glendora in Los Angeles County visiting my grandma. The morning started gray and misty, then became drizzly, and by late afternoon turned into actual rainfall such that she couldn’t take her dog on their normal evening walk.

Other Mays in the last eight years have been very different, with true heat waves reaching into the 90’s. Last year, one day in May reached 99 degrees at my place.

We can also distinguish the cool Mays of 2016, 2019, and 2023 by the average of their daily high temperatures. 2016 had an average daily high of 75, 2019 averaged 72.4, and this May of 2023 averaged 71.7. So I guess we did just have the grayest May in recent years.

The grayest May?

But in Southern California we call it May Gray not because of cool temperatures but because of persistent cloud coverage. The cool Pacific Ocean forms a layer of clouds that thickens at night and rolls over the land and recedes back over the ocean during the latter part of the day. Except this year it has done little receding. Even twenty miles inland at my place the marine layer has not burned off some days, and it has been present every single morning.

At the beach, it has been downright chilly most days. A couple of my friends who live within a mile of the ocean took a trip to Mexico during May and were eager to leave because they were tired of the relentless sweatshirt weather.

The National Weather Service reported measurements of solar radiation in Southern California for May of 2023, saying that it “indeed had the least amount of sunlight making it to the ground during the day of any year since 2000.”

Living inland, however, I’ve found this May Gray mostly welcome.

May Gray in the food garden

I’ve been watering plants, but it has felt less urgent because of the slow, cloudy mornings.

Most of my vegetables are not complaining about the weather either.

Pepper plant setting fruit in the mild May weather.

Although some are complaining about the earwigs, pill bugs, snails, and slugs chewing on their leaves. These pests were worse this May than in any other recent May in my yard.

Cabbage leaves laced by insect feeding.

All fruit trees appear pleased with May’s gray too. The one exception might be avocados.

“This is the latest avocado bloom I have ever seen,” one seasoned farmer in Carpinteria told me.

I still have many flowers open on varieties that are usually finished by the end of May, including Hass. And that’s a good thing because bee activity has been low. The fear is that pollination will be low since bees prefer to work during warmer temperatures, and flowers are also fertilized better when temperatures are in the 70’s.

Nevertheless, avocado foliage looks amazing. With respect to leaf growth, this gray May has been hospitable.

Dew left on happy Hass leaves from marine layer, June 2.

Will June be as gloomy?

As May was gray, will June be gloomy? No one knows beyond this first week of June, but the forecast through next week is for gloom indeed.

My location is predicted to have a marine layer every morning and the highest temperature will be 73. Sylmar is predicted to be in the high 70’s this weekend but back to foggy mornings every day next week with high temperatures at 75 or below. At Point Loma in San Diego, the marine layer is predicted to remain overhead almost all day every day, and the highest temperature will be only 64.

But valley people be on guard. While the beaches of Southern California almost never have a heat event in June, inland locations almost always do. June is the month with the most divergent weather in our region; it can be cloudy and breezy at the beach but triple digits twenty miles inland.

In fact, that’s what happened in 2019 after a gray May similar to this one. On June 10 and 11 it reached 100 degrees here in Ramona.

And in that similarly gray May of 2016, it rocketed to 100 degrees at my place on June 3. Again on June 19 and 20, it went up to 104 and 109.

Remember how long the days of June are (the longest of the year), and that a heat wave at this time literally lasts longer than at any other time of the year, which can result in extended damage.

But I’m cool with a gloomy June. I wouldn’t mind if summer weather didn’t arrive until July. My grandma? She will not approve.

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