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A sizzling summer: Hottest August on record in California

In the midst of the state’s most destructive wildfire season, California has garnered another dubious distinction: the hottest August on record in California, according to a report from UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.

A ferocious heat wave midway through the month — during which parts of Los Angeles County soared well above 100 degrees — helped push limits not seen since a deadly seven-day stretch in July 2006. In Death Valley, a blistering 130 degrees on Aug. 16 was thought to be the highest temperature on Earth in nearly a century.

The overall record for the hottest month in California was July 2018, although the highest spikes in August 2020 were higher than the highest spikes back then, Swain said.

“And the spikes we had just this past weekend in September were even higher than the spikes in August,” he said.

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California wasn’t the only state to reach new heights in August: Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico also saw their own hottest Augusts on record, Swain’s report said.

“You weren’t alone — not that that makes you feel any better,” Russell Vose, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said of the findings across the western U.S. Vose said the records go back as far as 1895.

“The warmth that you’re seeing here is consistent with what you’d expect to see in a climate that’s trending that direction in general, all over the world,” he said.

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The outlook for September is similarly harsh, said Lauren Gaches, spokesperson for NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Prediction, who confirmed there is “at least a 50% chance” of September temperatures in California coming in higher than normal.

The month already saw a scorching start with a Labor Day weekend heat wave that shattered records in Los Angeles. On Sept. 6, Woodland Hills soared to 121 degrees — the hottest official temperature on record in L.A. County, according to the National Weather Service. Amid the intense heat, dozens of wildfires are burning across the West.

What’s more, the six warmest years on record have all occurred in the past six years, according to NOAA. Concerns about “climate chaos” are only likely to climb as well.

“As the years roll on, you’ll be more inclined to see more of this in the future,” Vose said. “That’s probably what you would expect.”

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As California suffers through fires and heat storms, Joe Biden and Donald Trump couldn’t be any more opposed on climate change.


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