Don’t let chilly ending fool you; California was toasty in 2014

A bicyclist makes her way along Main Street during Tuesday morning rain in Venice.
A bicyclist makes her way along Main Street during Tuesday morning rain in Venice.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A cold snap this week brought snow and freezing temperatures to much of California during the final days of the year, but for the most part 2014 was hot.

In fact, it was the warmest year for California since record-keeping began in 1877.

The average temperature in California from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30 last year was 62.8 degrees, 4.1 degrees above the 20th century average of 58.7, according to Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert.

“2014 is calculated as the warmest year by far in the historical record for California,” he said.


The average temperature for the same period in 2013 was 60.7, or 2.0 degrees above the 20th century average.

But even if the last days of 2014 were dramatically different from the rest of the year, Patzert said, the shift didn’t do much to change California’s warming trend.

“It shows there is a lot of natural wild variables in weather systems, especially during the winter seasons,” he said.

The National Weather Service this week said that the storm from Northern Canada that dumped snow in some parts of Southern California also ended a 375-day stretch of high temperatures for downtown Los Angeles. The storm toppled trees and big rigs, unmoored boats and blanketed parts of Riverside County with snow.


On New Year’s Day the temperature at Los Angeles International Airport dropped to 36 degrees, breaking the record for the date of 38 set in 1972.

And just as California was finally getting a dose of winter, forecasters say it’s about to end.

Over the next few days the frigid air will move southeast toward Arizona and be replaced by a warmer weather system.

And by Tuesday, it could be sunny and in the 70s in downtown Los Angeles, said meteorologist Todd Hall at the weather service’s Oxnard bureau.


Before the cold air swooped in at the tail end of 2014, near- or above-normal temperatures dominated the nation for three weeks, according to Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rippey, who helps prepare a national weekly drought report, said drier-than-normal conditions were likely to continue next week in California.

Bouts of heavy rain in December, however, offered some drought relief, improving California’s severe dryness.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the condition of the state’s winter wheat crop was raised to excellent from good due to the rainfall.


But Rippey said “California’s rangeland and pastures still have a long recovery ahead of them.”

The proportion of California currently experiencing “exceptional” drought -- the most severe category -- dropped from 58% in September to 32% in December.

Dwindling water supplies prompted California to move forward with conservation efforts statewide following two voluntary emergency declarations made early last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Sierra Nevada snowpack also didn’t improve much in 2014. While measurements showed a deeper snowpack, officials with the California Department of Water Resources said it was nowhere near the amount needed to end the prolonged drought.


Experts say the generally dry conditions could continue in 2015.

“Many of the same concerns persisted in California, especially given the return of drier weather during the last one-third of December,” Rippey said.

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