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Sierra Daily

Nov 05, 2012

California Forecast: Hot and Ugly

CA-heatOn this November 5, the big window next to my desk is flung wide open in hopes of a cooling breeze to moderate the record 82.6 degree temperature outside. Outside of San Francisco it's even hotter: 92 in Los Angeles, 97.8 in coastal San Luis Obispo.

This might be a good time to invest in flip flops, because there’s much more to come in the future. Richard Kipling of the Center for Health Reporting informs us that as California’s Department of Public Health plans for climate change, “Extreme Heat Is the Rule.”

The future is going be hot and ugly. . . . By the 2030s, projections show that average annual temperatures will be up to 5 degrees higher, and extreme heat events will occur with markedly greater frequency.

The workgroup’s model shows, for example, that Sacramento will have 44 extreme heat days annually by 2050, Fresno 46, and Bakersfield 48. That’s six weeks of super-heat piled on top of the already scorching days of mid-summer in middle California.

But the astounding projections concern the normally temperate coastal areas. Los Angeles, according to the projections, will have a mind-bending 78 extreme heat days by 2050, with San Diego just behind at 76. Think of it this way – almost three months a year of extreme hot weather, despite LA’s and San Diego’s coastal geography. Extended unbearable heat is less than four decades away, and we’re building toward it now.

The good news is that unlike some other states we might mention, California is proactively preparing for the coming extremes. Its “Heat Adaptation Workgroup” brought together staffers from 11 state agencies, and the public is invited to comment on its Extreme Heat Adaptation Interim Guidance: Planning for Health and Heat.” In California’s heat wave of 2006, 650 people died. Smart advance planning can help minimize such awful numbers in the hot and ugly future.  

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

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