Record High Temperatures Broken in California as Drought Worsens

By Chris Dolce
Published: January 17, 2014

The weather pattern along the West Coast this week is one that was all too common last year and led to a record dry 2013 in California.

High pressure in the upper atmosphere this week.

A dominant ridge, or dome of high pressure aloft, is acting as a block to any precipitation in the Golden State. Not only does this so-called ridge prevent Pacific weather systems from affecting California with rain and snow, it's also leading to offshore winds, record high temperatures and a high fire danger this week.

Fire Danger Subsides....Slightly

The coverage of extreme drought in California jumped from 26 percent to 63 percent in the past week, according to the latest update from the U.S. Drought Monitor released on Thursday. This is the highest percentage of extreme drought that the state has seen since the Drought Monitor began in 2000.

While much of the state is prone to wildfires now due to the severe to extreme drought conditions currently in place, the Santa Ana winds that have made the situation even worse in Southern California are forecast to subside this weekend.

(WATCH: What Are Santa Ana Winds?)


Sierra Nevada Snow Water Comparison

Sierra Nevada Snow Water Comparison

Sierra Nevada Snow Water Comparison

Sierra Nevada Snow Water Comparison

Onshore wind flow will encourage slightly cooler and moist air into the region.

Nevertheless, little to no chance of precipitation exists for the region within the next week and a half, and red flag warnings remain posted for the fire danger. According to the National Weather Service in Hanford, Calif., the red flag warning issued earlier this week for the southern Sierra Nevada is the first ever issued for that area in January.

(CURRENT ALERTS: High Wind | Fire Danger)

Record Warm Temperatures

The area of high pressure in the upper atmosphere and the offshore wind flow has also pushed temperatures to record levels.

San Francisco International Airport tied its January monthly record high of 72 on Tuesday, then broke that monthly record Wednesday, topping out at 73 degrees. The record had previously been set Jan. 24, 1948, and Jan. 13, 2009. Records at the airport go back to 1945. San Fran broke its high again on Thursday, when the thermometer hit 72 degrees.

Salinas, Calif. also set its January monthly record high Wednesday, topping out at 83 degrees. This record was then surpassed on Thursday with a high of 84 degrees. Records in Salinas date to 1878. Santa Maria, Calif. also set an all-time January record high of 89 degrees on Thursday.

Other daily record highs set or tied Thursday included downtown Sacramento (67), Oakland (69), and Santa Barbara (84).

Records were shattered again in southern California on Friday. The Santa Barbara airport reached 85, which easily broke the old record of 85 degrees set in 2011. Friday was also the fourth straight day in which highs hit 80 degrees or greater in Santa Barbara, which set a new record for consecutive days at or above 80 degrees in January.

Below is a look at where more records could be threatened the next few days.

  • San Francisco: Highs in the upper 60s or low 70s through Monday. Current daily record highs to beat at SFO Airport: Sat (68), Sun (68)
  • Sacramento: Highs near 70 degrees through next week. Current daily record highs to beat: Sat (68), Sun (70)

Any Rain or Snow Ahead?

California Drought Status

Areas shaded in red and orange are in extreme and severe drought, respectively.

The prospects for any significant rain or mountain snow in California over the next ten days look dismal, according to the latest computer model forecast guidance. If this type of pattern were to persist through the final week of the month, many January precipitation records could fall by the wayside.

According to the National Weather Service in Monterey, Calif., San Francisco has never seen a January with less than a quarter inch of rain. With just one-hundredth of an inch of rain so far this month, this record could be in jeopardy. In addition, San Francisco has only recorded five days with measurable rain since Nov. 1 compared to an average of 30 days during the period from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31.

January is one of the two wettest months of the year in Los Angeles with an average of 3.12 inches of rain. If the second half of the month finishes with no rain, January 2014 would join only four other Januarys in the last 100 years that no rain was recorded (2003, 1976, 1972, 1948).

MORE: January 2014 California Wildfires

A burned-over bluff still smolders and traffic on Pacific Coast Highway is jammed in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, after a fire threatened bluff top homes Tuesday afternoon. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Kimball Island, Calif.


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