A new moon and smoggy days

Be on the lookout for migrant birds and coastal scrub

The Smoggiest Days of the year are most likely to occur during the next several weeks. Persistent temperature inversions (warmer air overlying cool marine air) are frequent this time of year. These inversions conspire with the mountainous topography of East County to trap locally generated air pollution under a low-lying lid. During the worst episodes, San Diego County’s coastal area is the hapless recipient of additional smog sneaking down from the Los Angeles Basin. This often occurs when a Santa Ana wind condition begins to weaken: L.A. smog blown offshore by a Santa Ana may get pushed back our way when the normal sea breeze returns.

Fall Migrant Birds such as wood warblers can be seen at Cabrillo National Monument and its vicinity on Point Loma, Torrey Pines State Reserve, and other parks and open spaces near the San Diego coast. Cooper’s or marsh hawks and even peregrine falcons may be seen following or pursuing these smaller birds.

San Diego’s Coastal Sage-Scrub Vegetation is now at the very nadir of its growth cycle. Shades of gray and yellow have replaced the bright greens that carpeted many of the still-wild coastal hillsides up until April or May of this year. Sometime within the next several weeks, the first substantial autumn rain will shatter the usual summer drought, and our “summer-deciduous” vegetation could bounce back in a matter of days.

The New Moon Enjoy a dark, moonless night on Friday, September 30 — perfect for skywatching, weather permitting. Telescope owners and naked eye observers alike may catch glimpses of the planets Mars and Saturn near the southwest horizon. Telescopic observers will see the bright red-orange hues of Mars and, depending on the magnifying power of the scope, will be able to spot Saturn's distinct rings. Be sure to catch these planets while they're still high in the sky; best views are offered while highest from the horizon, at around 7-8pm on September 30.

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