Welcome to another heat wave. Triple-digit temperatures on tap for Southern California so far this week. Our daily average high today will be 80 F, at the risk of being alarmist. By Monday that high will still be at 80 F. The record for 80 degrees is the 1981-1982 Los Angeles County Fair on August 3 and 4. That’s almost exactly 50 years ago!
For all you folks out there who live in the Southland, I hope you’re prepared for these heat waves. Let’s talk science.
Heat Waves Are Not Created by Heat
The Southern California area was not the hottest in the world when the first major heat wave struck in July 1976, but it’s not the coolest either. In fact, according to NOAA, for 2011, our average high was not too far off the record set in 1982 back at the LA County Fair.
The problem is, our area has only experienced one major heat wave in the last 200 years, and that was the infamous 1938-39 one.
Here’s what happened during the 2011-2012 Los Angeles area heat wave:
– The temperature in southern sections of the LA Basin increased by more than 4 degrees F over that span of time.
– The heat wave was especially damaging for agriculture, with a 24-degree F increase over its duration.
– Scientists are still stumped on what exactly caused the heat wave.
– The heat wave was the first to make headlines around the world.
– The heat wave made news for a month or so before it even began.
It’s not too difficult to see why Los Angeles has had so few heat waves. Our area has a lot of land to get through before it reaches the 80s (plus the occasional 70s). We also have a lot of old buildings that can keep us away from the heat.
The biggest culprit for heat waves in Southern California has been the ocean. For the month of July, our average sea-surface temperature was the highest the ocean has been in that time period. That’s a big problem.