Newsletter: Essential California: The hottest year on Earth?

A woman holds an umbrella with a crowded beach in the background
Yolanda Soria passes by beachgoers seeking relief from the heat in Huntington Beach on Sept 6.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Oct. 15, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Californians sweated through large swaths of September. The broiling heat waves included a Sunday early in the month that the National Weather Service categorized as “one of the hottest days since official weather records began across much of Southwestern California.”

New data released Wednesday by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information shows that September 2020 officially ranks as California’s hottest September since record-keeping began in 1880. And California was far from alone in breaking heat records last month. September 2020 was also the hottest September on record for the planet, according to NOAA.

The scientific agency said the record was driven by unprecedented heat around the globe, which “contributed to 2020’s trend as a remarkably hot year.” But the realities of climate change have made the breaking of temperature records a now-routine event. In fact, the seven warmest Septembers on record all occurred during the last seven years. (Prior to September 2020 claiming its title, September 2015 and 2016 were tied as the hottest Septembers on record.)


NOAA climatologist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo told the Associated Press that the record temperatures are a product of global warming from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, as well as natural variability.

[Read the story: “Earth breaks September heat record, and 2020 may end up being its hottest year ever” from the Associated Press]

According to NOAA’s research, there is a now a 64.7%, or nearly 2-to-1, chance that 2020 will end up as Earth’s hottest year on record. (2016 currently holds the record.)

These statistics are probably little surprise in a state where climate change-intensified wildfires have been raging for months, ravaging more than 4.1 million acres this year alone.

[See also: “How climate change is fueling record-breaking California wildfires, heat and smog” in the Los Angeles Times]

As of Wednesday morning, 11,000 firefighters continued to battle 20 wildfires across the state, with 13 of those classified as major incidents. Parts of Northern California still face critical fire weather conditions, with a red flag warning stretching all the way from parts of Del Norte County in the far northwestern corner of the state south to the Sierra Nevada foothills and parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Pacific Gas & Electric was expected to begin preventive power shut-offs Wednesday evening in some areas of 24 counties across Northern California, with power restored by 10 p.m. Friday. (If you live in an affected area, you can find a current and future outage map here, look up your address here and find the closest community resource center here.)


And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

More than 1 million California ballots have already been cast, shattering records. This marks the most ballots collected by mail at this point in any California election. Nearly half of the ballots come from Los Angeles County. Los Angeles Times

An L.A. suburb reckons with its racist past as a “sundown town.” Glendale has become the first city in California and the third in the nation to pass a resolution apologizing for its racially exclusionary history as one. Sundown towns kept Black Americans out through a combination of laws and informal measures, including racist housing covenants and police intimidation. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


The novel coronavirus is spreading faster in Los Angeles County, with the rate of new cases expected to increase in the coming weeks, officials said Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

🚨STREET SWEEPING ENFORCEMENT RESUMES TODAY IN L.A.🚨 City officials had halted it amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But traffic officers will return to handing out $73 street sweeping enforcement tickets (and several other kinds of tickets) beginning Oct. 15. Los Angeles Times


Reality TV and commercials made up the bulk of shoots in L.A. in recent months, but the local industry for film and TV on-location shoots was down 55% year over year as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Los Angeles Times

How AFI Fest transformed into a virtual event. Organizers had one distinct advantage: They had done it before. Los Angeles Times


The California GOP pushes back against state election officials on unofficial ballot boxes. Republican Party officials on Wednesday doubled down on their efforts to use private ballot boxes to collect votes, arguing the practice was within the bounds of state election law and vowing to keep using the unofficial containers. Los Angeles Times

NBC faces a backlash for scheduling its President Trump town hall against ABC’s Joe Biden event. Cheryl Gould, a former executive vice president for NBC News, said the network is capitulating to Trump, who refused the Commission on Presidential Debates’ request that his scheduled Oct. 15 meeting with Biden be held virtually as a safety precaution. (Biden’s campaign agreed to do a town hall event with ABC News after Trump backed out of the debate.) Los Angeles Times

A frontrunner in Vallejo’s mayoral race has been the subject of years of domestic violence allegations. Open Vallejo reports that Hakeem Brown has been accused of domestic violence or related crimes in at least nine different incidents — including five cases that resulted in criminal charges, of which he was convicted in three. Open Vallejo


The LAPD tells officers to be available in case of election-related unrest. Law enforcement sources said the department does not have any specific intelligence suggesting problems, but that the bulletin was put out to be prepared for any contingencies. Los Angeles Times



COVID-19 cases linked to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry have doubled over the last week as the school attracts attention on social media for a video by a church leader criticizing masks as “worthless” and mocking businesses that enforce wearing them. The school is affiliated with Bethel Church, a Redding-based evangelical megachurch. Associated Press

The Bobcat fire aftermath threatens endangered species in San Gabriel Mountains. “Terrain that once resembled a High Sierra granite gorge now looked like ground zero after a nuclear explosion, and the usually clean mountain air was sharp with the stench of smoke.” Los Angeles Times


“How do you show up en masse to celebrate Grandma’s birthday without killing her with COVID-19?” Columnist Gustavo Arellano describes how his “tamborazo-loving, food-crazy, hug-addicted clan” planned a socially distant fiesta for matriarch Angelita Arellano’s 98th birthday. Los Angeles Times

An older woman on a porch with birthday balloons and flowers
Angelita Arellano has had health struggles this year, but the East L.A. front-steps celebration lifted her spirits.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

July is the new January. White-collar companies are increasingly extending working from home through next summer, with much of corporate America now following the lead of Silicon Valley tech companies. New York Times

A poem to start your Thursday: “You See How Seasons Twist Those Caught in Them” by Al Young. AfroPoets


Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at


Los Angeles: sunny, 93. San Diego: sunny, 85. San Francisco: partly sunny, 84. San Jose: partly sunny, 91. Fresno: sunny, 89. Sacramento: sunny, 93. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Maria Mar:

In the fall of 1960 my family picked plums and grapes on a local farm in the Dry Creek Valley of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. My dad would take us to the ranch at dawn, pick with us then go to his lumber mill job. We would work, picnic and nap, with mother expecting father around 4 p.m. bringing cold chocolate milk and sometimes sweet rolls. I was five and understood that the money we were earning was for our education sans prejudice at a private school in town. Work was difficult and hot in the fall. My older sister and I had friendly competitions, and after work we played and dreamed about school. My parents set the pace for us regarding work, play and accomplishment. It was grand for me to work alongside them for our common good in a small agricultural town in Northern California.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.