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Why the 'sea breeze' could impact launch of NASA's Artemis-1

The meteorological phenomenon causes the infamous afternoon thunderstorms that pop up at the beach and along the coast.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With upcoming Artemis launch windows happening in the afternoon and evening hours, NASA is going to have to contend with the infamous afternoon thunderstorms of Florida.

"Weather Launch Commit Criteria," which define the weather conditions in which a NASA launch can and cannot happen, have requirements for precipitation, lightning, temperature, and other conditions.

Artemis-1 is set to launch from Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. As seen Saturday, Aug. 27, a series of lightning rods around the launch pad will try and protect the spacecraft from any lightning strikes.

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Lightning strikes the Launch Pad 39B protection system as preparations for launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard continue, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Artemis I flight test is the first integrated test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and supporting ground systems. Launch of the uncrewed flight test is targeted for no earlier than Aug. 29 at 8:33 a.m. ET. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

In order to launch, officials will be looking at more than just the weather at the launch pad.

“The conditions have to be right at launch time, and throughout the flight along that path of the flight," explained Tony Rice, a NASA ambassador based in Raleigh, North Carolina. "And as long as they can find that amount of time that meets the launch weather criteria, it can go”

 🌩️ If you like weather, watch Brad Panovich and the WCNC Charlotte Weather Team on their YouTube channel, Weather IQ. 🎥

The infamous afternoon thunderstorms seen along the coast are caused by the sea breeze. This is the same process that creates popup thunderstorms often seen at beaches and along the coast.

Sea breezes occur because of the unequal heating rates of land and water. During the day, the sun causes the land surface to heat up faster than the water surface.

As the warm air over the land is rising, the cooler air over the ocean is flowing back over the land surface to replace the rising warm air. This process can kick off thunderstorms.

As the weeks go on, NASA will also have to contend with the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which historically shows a rapid increase in tropical activity this time of year.

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