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San Diego Temperatures Hotter Than Average As Region Enters New Drought Cycle

Looking towards Santee from Cowles Mountain, Jan. 13, 2018.
KPBS Staff
Looking towards Santee from Cowles Mountain, Jan. 13, 2018.

San Diego has been experiencing a drier and hotter than usual winter as the region enters a new drought cycle.

Temperatures in San Diego during January and December were nearly 4 degrees higher than normal and nearly 8 degrees higher than average in inland areas of the county. In addition, San Diego is once again entering a drought after a one-year reprieve from California’s historic 5-year drought.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Tardy said the unusual weather stems from a lack of storm systems in the region.

RELATED: California Governor Declares End To Drought Emergency

“The storms have been going way to our North,” Tardy said. “So, you get lots of sunshine like today. You get more warmer temperatures. Your land heats up, your ocean heats up. They follow each other, and overall, it’s all because of a lack of storms.”

Coast to Cactus Weather Examiner
Rainfall for the water year beginning 1 October has been abysmal for Southern California through the end of 2017. Many reporting stations in the region had recorded less than a tenth inch for October through December. This was less than 10% of average season-to-date, and among the driest October-through-December periods in history.
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Ocean temperatures along San Diego’s coastline are approximately 4-to-5 degrees above average. Tardy said. Without storms, there is no ocean upwelling which brings cooler water from the deep to the ocean surface.

“When your water is warmer, you don’t have as much cooling coming off the ocean,” Tardy said.

Typically, up to five storms will move through San Diego from December to March. But since the rainy season began in October, San Diego has had only one storm, on Jan. 8. It brought a little less than 2 inches of rain at Lindbergh Field. Currently, the precipitation deficit remains at more than 3 inches.

“The atmosphere is fussy. It requires everything to come together at the right latitude, longitude to hit us perfectly,” Tardy said.

February is usually the region’s wettest month, bringing an average of 2-and-a-half inches of rain. March can also bring significant precipitation. However, Tardy said the long-range forecast bears little hope.

“There’s some hint in our computer models of some subtropical moisture sometime in February,” Tardy said.

One trend that remains clear is that the region’s above-average temperatures are consistently breaking daily and monthly records.

“Without having the storm track over us, month after month, week after week, it’s no surprise that we’re running as warm as we are,” Tardy said.

It’s a troubling pattern, according to Tardy, and the warmest period since record keeping began in 1850.

“The warmest years, the warmest months have all occurred in the past four years since 2014,” Tardy said.

Tardy said the overall monthly temperature averages for the last 32 consecutive months have all been above average.

San Diego Temperatures Hotter Than Average As Region Enters New Drought Cycle
San Diego has been experiencing a drier and hotter than usual winter as the region enters a new drought cycle.

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