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Heat Wave Takes Brief Summer Vacation

Times Staff Writer

Remember the spring that skipped out on Southern California during this year of record heat?

Like a prodigal son, spring has dropped by for August, bringing ocean breezes and cloudy, relief-laden skies. After a May, June and July far hotter than normal, August is starting off on a cooler note. Temperatures have dropped 20 degrees or more in a week, with highs in Los Angeles in the low 80s and lows in the mid-60s.

But forecasters have a warning: Enjoy the cooler weather while you can.

Meteorologists said Monday that last month was the hottest July on record, and that indications are that August might end up being a sizzler too.

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“Enjoy your late June gloom in August,” said William Patzert, a meteorologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge. “At the end of the week, we could be back in the sauna.”

Climatologists said the Southland could experience relatively cool -- that is to say, tolerably warm -- temperatures until Sunday. A high pressure system that had stymied the flow of cool marine air into the region moved just enough to begin tormenting the East Coast.

And the jet stream, which was hugging the border between Canada and the United States, finally relented to allow cold air from the far north to flow into the West.

That has resulted in the cloudy, breezy conditions that are more typical of May grays and June glooms, which were absent this year amid an unusually warm spring.

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“We’re getting June gloom two months late,” Patzert said. “Now it looks like we’re good for at least a week.”

The prolonged heat wave that scorched July and broke records taxed the power supply, caused blackouts and played a suspected role in the deaths of more than 140 people. The bad news is that such torrid weather is more typical of Augusts in Southern California.

“We’re guaranteed to have a spell in there of three to five days where we get really hot weather again,” said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

July is typically cooler than August. But last month’s heat wave provided the latest example of Southern California’s sometimes out-of-whack weather.

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In downtown Los Angeles, the average high temperature of 89.7 degrees was about six degrees above normal.

Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the northern Mexican desert often made for muggy conditions.

The unusually warm May and June, which were largely devoid of cloudy skies and cool marine layers, followed an unseasonably cold March and April, Patzert said.

“It’s been a funny year,” he said. “March was about as unusually cool as July was unusually hot. Now we’re getting a funny little week here where it looks like the first week of June during the first week of August.”

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Patzert said the July heat wave that broke records throughout the region was more typical of August, which makes the relatively cool beginning to this month a pleasant surprise.

Even if this meteorological paean to breezy spring in August is only ephemeral.

“Man, what a treat this is,” Patzert said. “Hallelujah! That’s what I say. I love June gloom.”


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