Photos show what July’s heat and drought looked like this summer

A boy on a sandy lakeshore holds an umbrella turned inside out by wind
Zachary Pruett, 10, catches wind with this umbrella as he struggles to put it away after he and his mother, Amanda Pruett of Santa Clarita, finish their morning at Castaic Lake Lagoon. The pair came to cool off “before the sun becomes dangerous,” she said.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Hot, dry and “unrecognizable” describe July 2021.

The West boiled with record-breaking heat, and persistent drought that has left the Colorado River, Lake Mead and Lake Powell two-thirds empty, a ‘bathtub’ ring lining the shores of the largest water sources serving California.

As more frequent heat waves broke records this summer, our photojournalists documented what it looked like and how we coped.

A distinct line between contrasting light and dark rock far above a small boat delineates the high water mark of a large lake
A boater gets an up-close view of the “bathtub ring” revealed by the low water level in Lake Mead in Nevada on June 28. The coloration is the result of the deposition of minerals on previously submerged surfaces.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Evergreen trees stand marooned well above the water level on islands and the shore of a large but receding lake
Low water levels at Lake Shasta on June 30 show the drought’s toll.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

“According to Merriam-Webster, a drought is a temporary condition,” Kuhn said. What is happening, he suggested, is something more permanent and troubling. “This is aridification.”

— Eric Kuhn, former general manager of the Colorado River Conservation District

Unrecognizable.’ Lake Mead, a lifeline for water in Los Angeles and the West

Water from a firefighter's hose creates a rainbow in a burned area
Pasadena Fire Capt. Art Dominguez hoses down hot spots July 5 on the Tumbleweed fire near Gorman as a rainbow forms in the spray. o
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Vehicles cross a bridge across a nearly dry arm of a lake
Cars cross the Enterprise Bridge on June 30 at Lake Oroville, which was 33 percent full and 40 percent of historical average when this photograph was taken.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A surfer makes a slashing turn on a wave
USA Surfing Team member Kolohe Andino, 27, of San Clemente rides a small wave July 13 during training at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach before heading to the Summer Games in Tokyo, where the sport was to make its Olympic debut.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A no swimming sign rises above dry land
A sign prohibiting swimming rises above land left dry by receding Lake Mead at the Callville Bay Resort & Marina on June 29.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The most recent rain year, which ended in June, was the seventh-driest in Los Angeles’ 144 years of records and the third-driest on record in the Northern Sierra region.

— Golden Gate Weather Services


Drone photos reveal the shocking truth of California’s parched landscape

A woman and boy play with a ball in a swimming pool
Inez Esparza and her son Ezrah, 10, beat the triple-digit heat at Newhall Park Community Pool in Santa Clarita on July 7.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)
Boaters in dugout canoes pass near a bridge over a forested lake
Yurok guides Zechariah Gabel, front, Sammy Gensaw, right, and Jon-Luke Gensaw, left, paddle tourists along the Klamath River on June 10 in traditional canoes handcrafted from redwood logs.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
A man wades in shallow water at sunset
Eric Richins, 35, of Kingman, Ariz. and the owner of Big Water Boating, searches for a safe ramp from which to launch his pontoon boat without it getting stuck in the shallow water at the Temple Bar Marina entrance to Lake Mead on June 28.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Newsom issued a regional drought state of emergency in 50 California counties, or roughly 42% of the state’s population.

Drone photos reveal the shocking truth of California’s parched landscape

A teenager jumps into the ocean where a group of people tread water
Fellow guards watch and cheer on July 15 as a Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard jumps off the Hermosa Beach pier into about 20 feet of water during their annual ritual on the last day of their summer session.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Small silvery fish swim near a mesh filter
Endangered Sucker fish swim at the Gone Fishing complex in Klamath Falls, Ore. on June 9. They will eventually be released to Upper Klamath Lake.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A green lake contrasts with a barren desert landscape
Hemenway Harbor at Nevada’s Lake Mead, which was at its lowest level in history on June 28.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
People, many in matching purple shirts, line a swimming pool filled with colorful flotation rings
Seniors participate in the “Shoot and Splash” event at Belmont Village Senior Living on July 22 in Calabasas. I The facility hosts its own version of the Olympic games, where residents compete in various events for mind, body and spirit.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Death Valley was expected to reach record temperatures of 130 degrees, which equals the hottest temperature recorded on Earth in nearly a century. But that record came two days early on the afternoon of July 9th.

Heat wave sets new high temperature records, strains power supply

Boat slips line dry ground at a depleted lake
Boat slips are surrounded by dry land July 1 at drought-stricken Folsom Lake.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Children stand in falling water in a play area
Children cool down on a 94-degree day at the Jerry Lewis Family Swim Center in San Bernardino on June 25.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
A woman in long sleeves and wide-brimmed hat kneels on a desert salt patch
Maria Jesus, 37, conservation program assistant for the California Botanic Garden in Claremont, kneels in the salt crust looking for seeds from the endangered Amargosa niterwort plant on July 14 in the Mojave Desert’s Amargosa Valley. The seeds will be added to a “Noah’s Ark” archive of seeds of rare and endangered California plants.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

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