No, really: Let's talk about the weather

afternoon-clouds-over-hill.jpgAfternoon thunderheads over the San Gabriels, a regular feature of LA summers, on Saturday from Hill Street downtown. LAO

Just in time for the heat to break on Sunday, Tim Rutten had a column in the Daily News reassuring is all that it's OK to talk about the weather in Los Angeles. "While I value suffering in silence as much as the average repressed Irish Catholic male, put me firmly in the let’s-talk-about-the-weather camp — and there’s no better place to do it than Southern California, which contrary to popular belief is a region of extreme weather. (Having a “Mediterranean climate” doesn’t mean the weather never changes; it just means it seldom gets very cold.)" True that. One way to tell an informed Angeleno from the pretenders is to see if they buy the literary canard that Los Angeles is a desert.

Rutten writes that when it comes to the Southern California weather and climate, there is plenty to talk about. (And, of course, there are too seasons. Some recent arrivals just may lack the the proper equipment for detecting the annual-ish changes.)


The current siege of heat and humidity, for example, may be wretchedly uncomfortable, but what’s that compared to its boundless conversational possibilities? It’s fascinating, for example, to note that those who haven’t already been laid low by heat stroke or just succumbed to the mute, uncomprehending misery of dumb brutes, seem divided on what afflicts us: In one camp are those who smugly ascribe our current torment to unarrested climate change and in the other those, resistant to any change on principle and viscerally suspicious of science, who insist Southern California always has had wacky weather. In other words, even the weather has been politicized: In this, as in all else, we’re a state divided between red and blue.

Actually, this is one of those cases where there’s a bit of truth on both sides.

Because agriculture — particularly the citrus industry — has played such a crucial part in our history, we’re blessed with unusually detailed temperature records, and they show that, for California as a whole, the average temperatures have risen by around 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895. The greatest increases have occurred in Southern California and the Central Valley. Moreover, if the current heat is just too much, you might want to consider relocating to Oregon, because it looks like there’s more of the same on the way.

UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability recently used a super computer to create the first climate forecasting model able to take into account this region’s incredibly complex geography of coastal canyons, mountain ranges, deserts and densely populated urban areas....By 2041, downtown Los Angeles will have three times as many days each year where the temperature tops 95 degrees as it does now. The San Fernando Valley will have four times as many, while the High Desert regions will endure a fivefold increase.

Perhaps worse, the region’s hottest days will grow hotter and most existing records will fall. To understand what that means, consider that eight of the 10 hottest days ever recorded occurred over the past decade. In fact, L.A.’s all-time downtown record was set during just the sort of September heat wave we’re suffering through now. That was on Sept. 27, 2010, when the mercury hit 113 degrees in the Civic Center.

And it's already frequently hotter in the city's far western extreme — Woodland Hills set the city and county record of 119 in 2006. Rutten 's column runs on the opinion page of the LANG newspapers on Saturdays.

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