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Capital Weather Gang

On fire: July was California’s hottest month ever recorded

August 9, 2018 at 1:54 PM

Temperature difference from normal in California over past 30 days. (

The devastating wildfires that erupted in California in July, some of which are still raging, were stoked by the state’s hottest weather in recorded history.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that July was California’s hottest month ever observed. The state’s average temperature of 79.7 degrees edged past the previous record of 79.5 degrees in July 1931 and was five degrees warmer than normal.

“This is not some fluke. This is part of a sustained trend,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times.

Temperatures in California have risen steadily over the past century. Eight of the 10 hottest Julys on record have occurred since 1996, and four of the top 10 since 2013.

The hot, dry and sometimes windy conditions “created ideal wildfire conditions,” NOAA’s report on July’s weather said. The destructive Carr, Ferguson and Mendocino Complex fires were among the many set off in July. Those three fires alone have burned over a half-million acres. The Mendocino Complex Fire set the record for the state’s biggest,  surpassing the Thomas Fire in late 2017.

Related: [Apocalyptic webcam image offers snapshot of California’s nightmare fire season]

“The nighttime warmth has been especially extraordinary so far this summer in California,” Twain tweeted. “Preliminary data suggest that overnight temperatures this July were warmest on record across most of state, including areas near ongoing major fires and in Los Angeles County.”

California’s scorching July was headlined by a historic heat wave in Southern California on July 6. Most records for the date were obliterated, and quite of few of the highest temperatures were the highest for the month of July or any month of the year, known as “all-time” records.

Related: [Record heat put thousands of Californians in the dark. Scientists predicted this from climate change.]

The weather station at UCLA, which has kept measurements since 1933, posted a high of 111 degrees, crushing the previous July 6 record of 89 and topping its record of 109 set Sept. 20, 1939. Other locations that set all-time highs include:

July’s average temperature at Death Valley, the state’s hottest location, was a searing 108.1 degrees, the highest monthly temperature ever observed not only in California but anywhere on the planet.

Related: [Death Valley posts hottest month ever recorded on Earth, for the second July in a row]

The historic warmth during the month transformed the normally cool ocean temperatures off the San Diego coast to ostensibly bath water in early August. The water temperature at Scripps Pier has broken its previous record high mark set in July 1931 three times. On Wednesday, a temperature of 79.2 degrees was registered.

California was the nation’s hottest state during July, relative to normal. The temperature over the 48 contiguous state ranked 11th warmest in records dating back to 1895, tied with 1998. Several other West Coast states, as well as the Northeastern United States, joined California in witnessing abnormally hot conditions during the month.

July’s toasty temperatures capped a three-month stretch in the Lower 48 which ranked as the warmest on record (May through July).

The hot and dry weather in the Western United States marked quite the contrast from the soggy weather experienced in the East. Pennsylvania had its wettest July on record, and Maryland scored its second wettest. Baltimore logged nearly 17 inches of rain, a new July record.

Jason Samenow is The Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.

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