Coastal Ocean Research and Monitoring Project
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Onslow Bay Coastal Climatology

Any person familiar with southeastern North Carolina usually thinks of beaches and coast. All aspects of the region’s landscape are dominated by the coast. Population is concentrated in coastal counties and cities. Economic activities focus on fishing, shipping, and beach tourism. In short, the coast and southeastern North Carolina are one in the same. Thus, in order to understand any aspect of southeastern North Carolina, one must incorporate a coastal frame of reference.

In order to understand any aspect of southeastern North Carolina, one must incorporate a coastal frame of reference.

In terms of understanding the weather and climate of southeastern North Carolina, the key is to look at the coastal climatology of the region. Coastal climatology can be defined as a long term summary of atmospheric and near-shore oceanographic characteristics that allows people to manage social, economic and environmental activities. The purpose of this web page is to describe the coastal climatology of Onslow Bay, particularly for those individuals involved in tourism and recreation.

Coastal climatology can be defined as a long term summary of atmospheric and near-shore oceanographic characteristics that allows people to manage social, economic and environmental activities.

Onslow Bay is the segment of the continental shelf between Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. The coast along this segment consists of a sequence of large capes and associated shoals, barrier islands, spits, and occasional headland areas. Directly behind these shoals, islands, and spits, before the mainland, are narrow lagoons nearly filled with marsh. The 13 barrier islands that exist in Onslow Bay have a wide variety of physiographic forms, ranging from overwash-dominated narrow barriers to wide barriers with massive dune and no washovers. (Cleary 1996).

Onslow Bay is the segment of the continental shelf between Cape Lookout and Cape Fear.

Satellite Image of Onslow Bay

The two main sources of climate data for Onslow Bay are the Wilmington Airport and the Frying Pan Shoals oceanographic buoy. These two stations record a wide variety of meteorological and oceanographic variables including air temperature, water temperature, wave height, wind speed and wind direction, atmospheric pressure, and rainfall. Through a summary of data collected to date for these locations, one can create ‘normal’ monthly atmospheric and ocean conditions in the Onslow Bay area. To view these ‘normal’ conditions or the monthly coastal climatology of the Onslow Bay area click on the desired month below.

The two main sources of climate data for Onslow bay are the Wilmington Airport and the Frying Pan Shoals oceanographic buoy.

May

These ‘normal’ monthly climate values indicate that coastal region of Onslow Bay is relatively mild due to its maritime location with winds from over the ocean moderating temperatures through out the year. Summers are quite warm and humid with long-term averages showing that afternoon temperatures reach 90 degrees or higher one-third of the year. Most winters are short and quite mild with coldest temperatures remaining above zero. Rainfall in this area is usually ample and well-distributed throughout the year with the greatest amount occurring in the summer. Summer rainfall comes principally from thunderstorms with thunderstorms occurring about one out of three days form June through August. Winter rain is generally associated with slow-moving, low pressure systems. Most winters have a few flakes of snow, but accumulation on the ground is rare. Onslow Bay is subject to the effects of coastal storms and occasional hurricanes which produce high winds, above normal tides, and heavy rains (Grey House Publishing, 2001).

The coastal climate of Onslow Bay is relatively mild due to location near the ocean. Summers are warm and humid with winters short and few daily temperatures below zero. Rainfall is well distributed throughout the year and can be created by thunderstorms, low pressure systems, coastal storms, or hurricanes.

References

Cleary, William J. 1996. Environmental coastal geology, Cape Lookout to Cape Fear, NC. Carolina Geological Society, Raleigh, NC. 138pp.

Grey House Publishing 2001. Weather America: A thirty-year summary of statistical weather data and rankings. Grey House Publishing, Lakeville, CT. 2013 pp.

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