Mike Tidwell comments – Articles describing single events such as these, while interesting, don’t tell us that much climate change. This is because you have to look at the whole system, not individual pieces and events. More of a worry is that unstable, weird weather seems to be becoming more frequent.
It’s still winter, but in Southern California it’s feeling more and more like summer.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a heat wave over the next three days that will push temperatures into the 90s in some places, probably breaking records.
The forecast is the latest twist in a period of unseasonable weather, with the Southland on pace to experience its driest year on record.
David Sweet, a meteorologist for the weather service in Oxnard, said its forecast calls for Monday’s previous record high of 87 in downtown Los Angeles to be broken. Sunday’s record of 93, set in 1916, will be harder to reach, though it’s possible, he said.
“I think we’ll break the record on Sunday, and Monday we’ll definitely break the record,” said William Patzert, a climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “It’s going to be hot, man! You can take that one to the bank.”
Southern California continues to go improv when it comes to weather. Late last spring, the coastal gloom gave way to hot weather that turned blistering in early summer.
Winter, in turn, has broken records for both high and low temperatures. And despite the projection of a wetter-than-average El Niño winter, Southern California has experienced drought-like conditions.
The region has been in the grip of a warm stretch for the better part of the last year.
With the exception of January, when an Arctic ice storm gripped much of the West, every month since June has been warmer than normal.
Sweet said the current heat wave is at least consistent in that sense.
“We’re getting an offshore flow, or high winds blowing in from the desert toward the ocean,” he said. “It’s somewhat rare for us to be getting that in March.”
The Santa Anas blowing in from the desert this weekend are expected to be weak. That doesn’t sound like much — except Santa Anas aren’t supposed to be blowing in March to begin with.
“It’s going to be bad fire weather,” Patzert said. “One thing that’s been really constant has been the Santa Anas. We’ve had hot Santa Anas, cold Santa Anas and mild Santa Anas. We’ve had a lot of Santa Anas and no rain.”
As long as the winds stay weak and the sun is out along the coast, the crowds will come, said Garth Canning, a Los Angeles County lifeguard chief in Hermosa Beach.
On Friday, the skies remained a bit overcast over the beach, he said, and a breeze blew, so the water was a little choppy.
But if the forecast held true, the county Fire Department would hire additional part-time lifeguards.
“A hot Sunday is always going to bring large crowds,” Canning said. “Pretty much any time the sun is out and the wind is not blowing hard, people show up.”
Patzert said the last year has been one of extremes for Southern California in part because of the absence of a dominant climate pattern such as a strong El Niño, a weather system associated with heavy rains.
Such a pattern brings an element of structure and predictability to weather — assuming it’s vigorous enough.
However, this year’s projected El Niño turned out to be relatively weak.
But while El Niños call for generally higher temperatures, they also call for above-average rains produced by warm subtropical jet streams. And that has not happened.
“We’ve gotten the warmth of El Niño with the dryness of La Niña,” Patzert said. “There’s just been a lot of volatility. But the volatility has been with temperature, not with rain.”
In other words: Stay tuned for the next weekend, and the next one, and the one after that.
“It could be foggy, it could be windy, it could be cold,” Patzert said. “Unfortunately, the constant has been: Dry. Look forward to May gray and June gloom. Just don’t bet on April showers.”