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Calendar Year 2014: Record-Breaking Heat in California

Data from California Climate Tracker show that 2014 was, by a wide margin, the hottest year on record for the state of California. For the earth as a whole, 2014 was essentially tied with 2010 as the hottest year on record, despite only weak contributions from the El Nino Southern Oscillation, which tends to raise atmospheric temperatures by transferring heat from the oceans to the atmosphere. In California, however, 2014 was dramatically hotter&—more than a full degree Fahrenheit—than the second-hottest year (2010), and 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the long-term historical baseline (1949-2005). Also, California’s daily minimum temperatures continue to rise faster than daily maximum temperatures. As demonstrated by recent heat waves, hot nights can put an enormous strain on the state’s health and utility infrastructure. However, summer daily maximum temperatures were not unusual. Temperatures in other seasons, especially in the winter season, were unusually warm. For example, in the San Joaquin Valley daily maximum temperatures in the winter time (December 2013 to February 2014) were about 6 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the long-term historical baseline for this season.

Record-breaking heat in California has exacerbated the impacts of the current drought, although the science is not yet conclusive regarding whether climatic change played a role in causing the current drought. For example, in 2014 California relied more heavily on groundwater (65% of all uses), drawing down aquifers. This extra pumping removed the cooling effect of groundwater connections in some streams and rivers. At the same time, higher ambient temperatures heated water in rivers, further reducing quality habitat for native aquatic species that are dependent on cool water streams.

 

Graph of record-breaking heat in California in 2014

Post last edited on: 2015 January 23


Tags: temperature


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