From his vantage point 160 feet above Dana Point Harbor, Albert McComas has become a bona fide--albeit unofficial--expert on Orange County weather.
McComas, a manager at Cannons restaurant perched on the bluff overlooking the harbor, declared Monday "picture perfect," and he noted, "we can see the tip of San Clemente and all the sailboats.
"People are out," he observed, "and they're in a great mood."
The spectacularly clear skies and mild spring temperature the county has enjoyed the past few days are caused by the jet stream over Canada and a storm over the Rocky Mountains, said Curtis Brack, a meteorologist for WeatherData, which tracks weather conditions for The Times.
Those two distant weather phenomena have combined to create the recent Santa Ana winds that have brought pleasant temperatures in the mid- to upper 70s, Brack said.
"It looks very nice for the week," Brack said. "The Santa Ana winds will be weakening into the weekend, but the major pattern should stay."
The spring weather has been a boon to business at Catalina Cruises in Newport Beach, said Harry Hackett, a sales agent.
"Bookings are up," said Hackett, who had more than twice the normal passengers Monday. "We are a seasonal business. Weather has a lot to do with it."
The pleasant weather and crisp colors also lure photographers outdoors, said Jerry Ibarra, of D&J; 1-Hour Photo in Anaheim, who is located near Disneyland and relies on the tourist trade.
"The bad weather put us in the red," Ibarra said Monday. "Good weather does the opposite. I'd say our production and sales almost tripled compared to rainy days."
A cooling trend should start as early as Wednesday, but the weather will remain mild with highs from the mid-60s to low 70s, Brack said.
The highest temperatures recorded in the county Monday were found in Anaheim and Santa Ana, which both enjoyed 76-degree warmth. Other highs included 74 in Laguna Beach, El Toro 73, and Dana Point 68.
Thanks to the unseasonable Santa Ana winds, which blow clear air from the desert to the ocean, the skies have remained relatively free of the marine layer and smog, according to Brack and pollution analysts at the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Typically, winds blow from the ocean toward the shore, trapping smog and air pollution in the Los Angeles basin, Brack said.
"The Santa Ana winds are blowing everything out to sea. The marine layer of low clouds and fog has been pushed several hundred miles off the coast," Brack said.
At El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, the clear skies have been a welcome respite from this winter's rainstorms, said Sgt. David Burns, a Marine Corps air traffic controller.
"It makes it much easier for my work . . . instead of having to find alternate airfields for my pilots to land," Burns said.
But Jason Walker, a civilian air traffic controller at the El Toro base, said the prevailing haze of Southern California returns immediately after the wind or rain leaves.
"When the wind picks up, it blows all the smog out. When it rains it knocks the smog down," Walker said, "but 48 hours afterward, it's all back to normal. You get the morning commute, and (the clear skies) are gone."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Clearing the Air Two weather forces have combined to create sunshine and blue skies over Orange County, lifting temperatures ahd replacing the soggy gray gloom of last week. A look at what's behind the good weather: 1. Jet Stream high- pressure system ranging from Baja California to the Canadian border pushes rain north. 2. Storm in Rocky Mountains creates Santa Ana winds. 3. Santa Anas reverse normal breeze flow, driving smog, dust particles and marine layer away from coast. *
Monday Temperatures Anaheim: 76 Santa Ana: 76 Laguna Beach: 74 El Toro: 73 Dana Point: 68 *
Forecast Cooling trend by midweek; clear air and temperatures in the mid- 60s to low 70s through the weekend. Source: WeatherData