From sizzle to normal

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, record temperatures were set for 2010. Now things have returned to normal after a gloomy start to the summer and weeklong heat wave.

From July 14 to July 17 temperatures were in the mid- to upper 90s across California. The hottest it got in La Cañada was 97.6 on Thursday, but Friday wasn't far off at 97.4.

"People are saying, even though June 21 was the first day of summer, it looks like it didn't show up until the third week of July," Jet Propulsion Laboratory Climatologist Bill Patzert said.

The average temperature between July 13 and July 17 was 95.8, but temperatures have dropped to the mid-80s.

"Is the heat wave a preview of the summer's coming attractions? The answer is maybe," Patzert said.

No one knows when Mother Nature will have a change of heart. Although Patzert is a climatologist, he said this is all about the unpredictability of weather. The heat wave was unpredictable until a week before it popped up.

"We went from drizzle to sizzle, and now we are back to normal again," Patzert said.

July had been a chilly month before last week's heat wave. "June gloom" arrived two weeks late and spread into the first two weeks of July. Even with the heat wave, July is still one degree below the average temperature so far, Patzert said.

"Everyone was wondering where summer was," Patzert said. "Well, summer definitely didn't ease into the saddle; it jumped right in the saddle and trampled us all of a sudden."

Patzert said every year Southern California summers get a little bit hotter than the one previous, and he says that is due to global warming and the landscape. More construction each year in California makes each summer hotter than the last because the landscape and new structures retain more heat, he said.

A real concern for Patzert, as summer leads into the fall, is the dry spell Southern California has been enduring. There has been no significant rainfall since mid-April, he said.

"It's pretty dry, and if La Niña is building, there is a good chance when the Santa Ana [winds] arrive in the fall they will beat the rain, and we will have six months without rain," Patzert said. "The question isn't if there will be a hot summer but if it will be a fiery fall."

The four California seasons are drought, flood, fires and earthquakes, Patzert said. He fears the incredibly dry last three months could make for an unpleasant fire season.

"When you get a really hot week like that, it affects the grasslands and makes us really crispy," Patzert said. "We all have bad memories from last fall and the Station fire, and we definitely don't want déjà vu."

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