Is California Enjoying a Reprieve From Extreme Heat?

Beachgoers on Baker Beach in San Francisco earlier this month.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

As a heat wave baked much of the United States last week, a Bay Area meteorologist shared on Twitter a map of high temperatures expected across the nation.

Phoenix: 112. Dallas: 101. Palm Springs: 113.

And San Francisco: 65.

The City by the Bay is, of course, known for its fog and capricious weather. But as much of the nation suffers staggeringly high temperatures, California in general seems to be enjoying something of a reprieve from the heat, at least the extreme kind. (Some have even attributed this year’s milder fire season to the less intense summer.)

In Los Angeles, for example, the temperature on Friday is expected to peak at a balmy 82 degrees, while Portland is predicted to reach 103 degrees as a brutal heat wave engulfs the Pacific Northwest.

It’s possible that we in California have simply become accustomed to triple-digit heat. In 2021, the summer — defined by meteorologists as the three-month period of June, July and August — was the warmest on record in the state (and nationwide). In July that year, Death Valley’s daily average temperature was the highest ever recorded on the planet.

The summer of 2020 was the third hottest in the Golden State. That year, Woodland Hills clocked Los Angeles County’s hottest temperature ever — 121 degrees.

As of the end of this month, we haven’t reached those heights. But in most of the state, summer hasn’t been particularly pleasant either, experts say.

This June wasn’t the hottest ever (as it was last year) but it was the 14th warmest June since 1895, when state record-keeping began, said Courtney Carpenter, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Sacramento. And overall, the average temperatures for June and July in California were still higher than the 30-year average, she said.

“It hasn’t been the record levels that the past two summers have been so far, but it’s still well above average,” Carpenter told me. “It’s still been hot.”

This fits with a broader trend of increasing temperatures both here and across the world due to human-caused climate change. The seven hottest years ever recorded globally were, by a clear margin, the past seven.

Of course, these California figures are averages, so they mask variation across different regions of the state. It’s entirely possible your pocket of California has felt anything but normal this summer.

In coastal regions, for example, a persistent marine layer has kept temperatures closer to the historical average, or sometimes even below, experts say.

A weather station at Los Angeles International Airport, four miles from the beach, has been recording temperatures this month that are slightly below the 30-year average, said Todd Hall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles/Oxnard forecasting office.

But the southern San Joaquin Valley has endured triple-digit heat for more than two weeks. And today, the north end of the Sacramento Valley has an excessive heat warning, with temperatures potentially reaching up to 115 degrees.

In Southern California, 80 miles inland in Lancaster, the average temperature for July has been nearly 3 degrees above what’s typical for this month, Hall said. In Burbank, it’s 2.5 degrees higher than average.

“It’s been really hot away from the coast,” Hall told me.

Forecasts for August predict above-normal temperatures in California, so we don’t yet know whether this summer will ultimately become another record-breaking one, Carpenter said. (September also tends to be a sizzling month in the Golden State, though it’s not included in what meteorologists consider summer.)

“It’s hard to say, as we have a month left, what this summer could end up as — we could have a really warm August that could tip the scales,” Carpenter said.

For more:

  • How to stay cool in a heat wave. And how to protect your pets.

  • How much hotter is your hometown now than when you were born?

  • Heat in the U.S.: Where it could be dangerously hot.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court will not seek a second 12-year term, leaving at the end of the year.Credit…Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The rest of the news

  • California Supreme Court: Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, a moderate who has led the state’s highest court since 2011, announced she would not seek a new term in November and would retire in January, The Associated Press reports.

  • Water tunnel: California released a plan on Wednesday for a scaled back giant tunnel to move water from the northern to southern part of the state, The Associated Press reports.


  • Los Angeles sheriff: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided to ask voters for the power to remove a sitting sheriff, a move prompted by anger over Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s performance and resistance to oversight, LAist reports.


  • Math program: The California Early Math Initiative, stationed in Fresno, is a statewide project aimed at boosting the confidence of early childhood educators, child care providers and elementary school teachers to teach math, EdSource reports.


  • Cannabis: A plan that would allow marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated parts of Sacramento County was approved by the Board of Supervisors, The Sacramento Bee reports.

  • Cable Fire: Cal Fire officials began an air and ground attack on a wildfire that briefly prompted evacuations near the town of Cedar Grove in El Dorado County, The Sacramento Bee reports.

Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

What we’re eating

Juicy tomatoes with parmesan-olive bread crumbs.

Where we’re traveling

San Francisco shines with new museums, restaurants and parks.

Credit…Ann Johansson for The New York Times

And before you go, some good news

On a lot between two condo buildings in West Hollywood is what’s arguably the world’s first modern home.

Designed by the Viennese architect R. M. Schindler, who moved to Los Angeles to work with Frank Lloyd Wright, the Schindler House has concrete walls, an open floor plan and sliding patio doors.

And this year, it’s celebrating its centennial. Read more from The New Yorker.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “The Little Mermaid” princess (5 letters).

Isabella Grullón Paz and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


Related Articles

Back to top button