Monday, December 05, 2022

Northern California heat record: As hot as Death Valley

In California The past few days have been hotter than in living memory. In Fairfield, a small town about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, a Travis Air Base weather station thermometer recorded a temperature of 47 degrees. Price broke the 1913 heat record for northern California, which is typically cooled by a fresh ocean breeze. Due to the record temperature, the small town remained as hot on Monday as it was in Death Valley, where 53 degrees was measured.

The heat wave in California is caused by a broad high pressure area over Nevada and Utah that has been stable for weeks. This causes the air from a great height to sink towards the ground, warming it as it does so. The high air pressure at high altitudes puts a lid on the warm air near the ground that has spread over time to the growing regions of the American West. Nearly everyone in California and Nevada is groaning from the heat wave, as well as large parts of the states of Utah, Oregon and Arizona.

While summer temperatures of up to 40 degrees are common in the Nevada Desert and California’s Central Valley, current heat waves are extremely rare for populated Pacific coastal areas around San Francisco and Los Angeles. The network agency expects for the coming afternoon that Californians will consume more than 51 gigawatts of electricity – more than all the power plants that solar and wind systems can provide. Therefore, the operator of the power grid has called for voluntary self-restraint. Not successful in voluntary power savings, the network agency has announced that the entire district will be shut down for several hours.

The last time Northern California was hit by such a severe heatwave was in 2017. But then, the high temperature lasted only three days. However, the current heat wave has been going on for more than a week. Some relief is not expected until next weekend as the storm, currently raging over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, slowly moves north. Even if it loses some strength over cold water, its high-altitude winds are still strong enough to displace the constant altitude over California.

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