Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.
By: Christopher C. Burt , 9:10 PM GMT on February 07, 2014
The Amazing January 2014 Heat Wave in California
Although the weather news for California has (rightly) been focused on the enduring drought, with January likely to go into the books as the state’s driest on record, little mention has been made about the extraordinary warmth of the month as well. In fact, the maximum temperature anomalies were unparalleled for many locations and several all-time monthly heat records were broken. Here are a few examples.
The average maximum temperature for the past month in Sacramento was 66.1°, crushing the former record for such of 62.1° set in January 1976. Keep in mind that temperature records for downtown Sacramento date back to 1877. The all-time January record high of 79° on January 24th smashed the previous record for such by a whopping 5°: 74° set on January 31, 1976. Daily record highs were set for 12 of the month’s 31 days:
No other month in Sacramento weather records has set so many daily record highs in a single month.
San Francisco Airport (POR since 1927) had an average maximum temperature of 64.1°, a record and some 7.6° above normal, one of the most anomalous monthly temperature departures on record for the site. Seven days observed record daily highs with two of them all-time monthly highs: 73° on January 15th and 16th (previous record was 72° set on three previous occasions including on January 14th, 2014). Amazingly, the downtown site of San Francisco (with a temperature POR back to 1874) did not see any days ranking in the top 10 warmest thanks to cool breezes coming trough the Golden Gate and off the bay.
Other California sites that observed all-time monthly heat records
Below is a selection of sites across the state (arranged from north to south) that recorded their all-time monthly record high temperatures for January. This data is from the NCDC’s NOW DATA. Some of the POR’s appear very short (like Oakland). However, checking the actual entire POR’s for these sites, the records set in January 2014 still stand.
Map of California showing locations of the cities listed below.
TOP 10 WARMEST JANUARY DAYS
What is amazing is that some locations not only broke their all-time record highs for the month in January 2014, but also saw their 2nd and 3rd places for such.
The warmest temperature observed in the state during January appears to be 91° set at several sites, the most northerly being San Luis Obispo. This was also their all-time record besting the 88° set on January 17, 1976 (POR since 1893 at SLO Polytec).
The Drought Situation
As I write this, a major winter storm—a so-called ‘Pineapple Express’-is closing in on the northern two-thirds of the state. Up to 10” of rain is expected to fall in the normally favored locations in the coastal mountain ranges, with a general 1-3” soaking for the lower elevations and the metropolitan San Francisco region. If the forecasts verify over the weekend, this will be the first significant rainstorm to strike the area since mid-December 2012 (and the wettest since mid-March 2012, when the last ‘pineapple’ express’ made landfall in California.)
I will update the impact of this weekend’s storm on the precipitation deficits on Monday.
Christopher C. Burt
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