Last updated December 21, 2019

California bakes as winter temperatures set new records across the state

United States
A surfer in Redondo Beach walks past the setting sun on Sunday. Photo: Christina House, Los Angeles Times

Unseasonably warm and dry temperatures blanketed California over the weekend, shattering records across the state and bringing clear blue skies that were expected to linger through next weekend.

At the resorts near Lake Tahoe, the weather was so warm — 12 to 18 degrees above average — that the snow was melting, leaving behind puddles of water and slush. Some would-be skiers opted to go hiking instead.


The high temperature in San Francisco was 74 on Saturday and Sunday, setting new records for both days.

About 100 miles south, Salinas also had two consecutive days of record-breaking heat, reaching 81 on Saturday and 80 on Sunday.

Elsewhere around the Bay Area, new records were set Saturday at Oakland International Airport, with 76 degrees; in Santa Rosa, 76; and in San Jose, 78.

Up in Sonoma County's wine country, temperatures in Healdsburg rose to 80 degrees on Saturday. That broke a record of 75 set 112 years ago, way back in 1906.


Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA (where the high temperature was 79 on Sunday), said people have been noticing the rising temperatures because of the warmth has been so extreme.

One of the reasons is a persistent pattern of West Coast ridging, Swain said. That's an area of high atmospheric pressure that brings mild weather.

"This year it's been more pronounced in Southern California, but increasingly it's extended further north," he said.

The warm, dry weather can be traced in part to the phenomenon known as La Niña, in which there are colder-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical east Pacific Ocean, Swain said. The warming in the western tropical Pacific, along with the loss of Arctic sea ice, are also factors, he said.