"June gloom" enveloped Southern California on Monday, and forecasters said that only gradual improvement is expected through the week.
The experts put the blame on the Catalina Eddy, the swirl of onshore winds common at this time of year. It pushes cool, moist marine air inland over the coastal valleys, blanketing them with fog and low clouds.
In most Orange County communities, the sun never managed to burn through the overcast Monday, and forecasters said today will be just as dreary, with a chance of a few light sprinkles near the foothills.
Temperatures were slightly below normal, with highs ranging from 63 in Fullerton to 70 at John Wayne Airport.
The dreary weather kept seaside crowds small.
"The typical summer beach day . . . can't be planned for as easily," said Lt. John Blauer, spokesman for Newport Beach's Fire and Marine Safety Department.
"We have more varied weather conditions than normal. Typically we've had one day that's been nice and one day that's been more questionable," he said. As a result, "people are coming down to the beach a little bit later."
The same was true in Huntington Beach. "The crowd's been lighter than usual," said Lt. Steve Davidson, spokesman for Huntington City Beach. "It has been cooler, and the water temperature is quite a bit cooler than last year. . . . People may have stayed away."
For businesses specializing in outdoor activities, the past weekend was disappointing. "We were doing some business, but nothing like we would expect to see this time of year. It wasn't favorable at all," said Morrie Harrison, president of Embarcadero Marina boat rentals in Dana Point.
The National Weather Service said the weather Wednesday through Saturday will be only slightly better: partly cloudy to mostly clear.
"This sort of weather is not unexpected at this time of year," said John Sherwin, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.
Sherwin said the prevailing winds in June tend to parallel the coastline as they sweep down from the Gulf of Alaska. When the winds reach Point Conception in Santa Barbara County, the coastline turns abruptly to the east, and the winds swirl counterclockwise as they mimic the curve of the coast.
That swirl often swings inland after crossing over Santa Catalina Island--hence the name Catalina Eddy. The air moving inland carries a bank of saturated marine air that is trapped by the mountains.
Sherwin said temperatures should rise slightly as the week progresses, although with highs in the upper 70s to lower 80s inland by the end of the week.