The Summer of 2023 Was California’s Coolest in More Than a Decade

The past summer was the hottest ever in the Northern Hemisphere.

In fact, scientists announced last week that June, July and August this year were the warmest on record globally, confirming that the horrific heat waves in many places were as awful as they seemed.

The beach near the Santa Barbara Pier in June.Credit…Tanveer Badal for The New York Times

But, as you’re probably already aware, the summer didn’t bring record-breaking heat to California.

Some daily temperature records were broken in July in Palm Springs, Anaheim and Redding, but overall, the Golden State actually enjoyed its coolest summer since 2011, said Dan McEvoy, a researcher with the Western Regional Climate Center. That’s a particularly big relief after three consecutive summers that all ranked among our 10 most sizzling on record.

The northern third of California was warmer than usual (compared with the past 30 years) because of a high-pressure system over the Pacific Northwest that reached into the northernmost parts of the state, McEvoy told me. But Southern California experienced below-normal temperatures, from low-pressure systems over the region throughout the summer and from the cooling effect of Hurricane Hilary, he said. (Much of Southern California was also uncharacteristically cloudy this summer, with ordinarily sunny places like San Diego experiencing prolonged bouts of overcast skies.)

There isn’t a whole lot to make of California’s seasonal reprieve from the heat, other than that there are year-to-year fluctuations within an overall warming trend, especially at the local level. In other words, California is still experiencing the effects of climate change and generally getting hotter, even if this summer didn’t set records for scorching weather across the state, experts say.

“California has been hit hard in recent years, not so much this summer,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at U.C.L.A, told reporters last week. “But that won’t hold forever.”

And there’s an important caveat: The summer of 2023 was still pretty warm when compared with all recorded summers in California. It ranks as the 34th warmest summer in the past 129 years, McEvoy told me.

In other words, it may have seemed unusually cool partly because we’ve become accustomed to scorchers.

California’s 10 warmest summers, starting with the absolute hottest were: 2021, 2017, 2018, 2022, 2006, 2016, 2015, 1961, 1996 and 2020.

Veev, a building technology company, creates prefabricated closed walls with electrical, piping, and heating and cooling elements already inside.Credit…Aaron Wojack for The New York Times

The rest of the news

  • There is growing pressure to make buildings more energy efficient in the face of climate change, and several companies in California are leading the charge to do so.

  • A new study from researchers at Stanford University found that national progress in reducing air pollution is being diminished by wildfires, especially on the West Coast, The Mercury News reports.

  • Climate change is creating problems for railroads and their infrastructure worldwide, including through bluff erosion along the 351-mile rail corridor from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.

Southern California

  • Despite numerous calls last year for him to resign after he was heard participating in a conversation that featured racist remarks, the Los Angeles city councilman Kevin de León said on Wednesday that he would seek another four-year term.

  • Southern California air regulators will begin an initiative to compel large warehouses to comply with a new pollution reduction program, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Central California

  • Madera Unified School District has invested in a $1.4 million weapons detection system that officials say works better than metal detectors, The Fresno Bee reports.

  • A looming government shutdown could put Kevin McCarthy’s role as House speaker at risk, The Fresno Bee reports.

Northern California

  • Winds brought smoke from wildfires near the California-Oregon border to the Bay Area and other parts of Northern California yesterday, leading to unhealthy air quality.

  • Bard, Google’s competitor to ChatGPT, got an upgrade that allows the artificial intelligence chatbot to connect to a user’s Gmail, Google Docs and Google Drive accounts.

The General Sherman giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park.Credit…Patrick T. Fallon/Getty

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Karol Steadman, who recommends one of California’s many national parks:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tell us

As an antidote to bad news, we’ve been collecting your stories of 2023 wins, big and small. Please send me your tales of delight at [email protected], and include your full name and the city where you live.

Two beavers swim in Napa Creek in July.Credit…Godofredo A. Vásquez/Associated Press

And before you go, some good news

A baby beaver sighting at Matadero Creek in Palo Alto is spawning new hope that the state’s beaver population could be rebounding, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The sighting earlier this month represents the first time in decades that the North American rodents have settled and repopulated in this region of the Bay Area, a promising development for California’s beaver population, which has been severely endangered since the late 1800s as a result of fur trading and aggressive removal campaigns.

Last year, the state started a new beaver restoration program, a move hailed by wildlife experts who have long seen the creatures as essential to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and stemming the effects of climate change. Called “climate heroes” by wildlife officials, beavers build dams and ponds that can help mitigate drought and wildfire and nurture local biodiversity.

The recent arrival of a beaver kit signals an exciting possible turning point in the state’s re-population effort and is a cause for celebration among ecologists and environmentalists.

“It’s unique that they’re establishing,” Emily Fairfax, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, said. “This is a stamp of approval to have a beaver move in.”

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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