Last summer things were so hot that “the bottoms of our shoes melted,” said Lucio Rivera.
But not this year.
“This summer’s been perfect,” the paving company worker said this week as he applied striping to a freshly resurfaced roadway at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.
It was a comfortable 77 degrees, according to the college’s official weather station, which was about 100 feet from where Rivera, 40, of West Covina was working with two colleagues. It was so cool, in fact, that they had to use a propane torch to heat up and loosen the thermoplastic pavement paint before spreading it from a special three-wheel cart.
Like others who are enjoying the mild weather, Rivera was thinking this must be the coolest summer ever for Los Angeles.
“No, not so far,” said Bill Russell, a professor of geography and meteorology who operates Pierce College’s 61-year-old government-sanctioned weather station.
The station is where Los Angeles County’s hottest day ever was recorded on July 22, 2006 — a sweltering 119.2 degrees. That month, every day registered 100 or hotter, except for two days when 99 was the maximum.
This year, Russell’s weather station measured a monthly mean temperature of 73.5 for July. Except for a four-day period starting July 14 when temperatures rose above 100, highs ranged from the high 70s to the low 90s.
“I live in Woodland Hills and this summer’s been quite pleasant,” Russell said. “But it’s not the coolest. The coolest July we ever had was in 1952, when we had the lowest minimum temperature” for a summer day — a nippy 42 degrees.
Some meteorologists credit a developing La Niña weather pattern tied to cooler Pacific Ocean waters for the mild summer. In contrast to an El Niño pattern — whose warmer ocean waters lead to a rainy winter season — La Niña usually signals a dry winter.
Russell, however, attributes this summer’s temperatures simply to “a lot of low-pressure systems off the coast that have allowed cooler air to drop down from farther north.”
Forecasters with the National Weather Service describe the current weather pattern as a transition from an El Niño period to a La Niña. They say that the Los Angeles Basin is enjoying its coolest summer since 1991.
“This may come close to being one of the coolest,” said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist for the agency. July’s average high temperature in downtown Los Angeles was 79.4 degrees. The average high in July 1991 was 79.1.
Other cool summers in Los Angeles were recorded in 1938, 1939, 1944 and 1976, Seto said.
Bill Patzert, a climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, agreed that the weather is shifting from an El Niño pattern to a La Niña one.
“I call La Niña the diva of drought. We’re already under water rationing. A La Niña winter won’t do us any favors at all,” he said.
“The big drama is whether the winter rains arrive first or the Santa Ana winds arrive first,” Patzert said. “This doesn’t bode well for the fire season.”
While people along the coast are grumbling about the relatively chilly weather, those living inland aren’t.
“You knock off five or seven degrees and it’s a treat for me,” said Patzert, who lives in Sierra Madre. “Those in the sunscreen and boogie board business call this August Angst. I call it August bliss.”
Surf shop manager Chris Duffy was feeling that angst. He manages Woodland Hills’ Val Surf, a few miles from Pierce College.
“We’re banking on sunshine and hot weather,” said Duffy, 38, of Woodland Hills. “We sell surfboards, bikinis, swimwear. Our business has definitely been a lot slower this summer.”
Duffy said he visited Zuma Beach in Malibu before going to work Thursday and found it “cloudy and gloomy.” But he said he is hoping for the best: “You watch, it will be scorching in November.”
Maybe sooner. On Friday, 24 hours after the college weather station’s pleasant 77 degrees, its thermometer was registering 81 and was on the rise. And forecasters were predicting the beginning of a real heat wave Sunday.