Aug 9, 2018

On fire: July was California’s hottest month ever recorded

Jason Samenow
Washington Post
Temperature difference from normal in California over past 30 days. Image:
Temperature difference from normal in California over past 30 days. Image:

The devastating wildfires that erupted in California in July, some of which are still raging, were stoked by the state’s hottest weather in recorded history.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that July was California’s hottest month ever observed. The state’s average temperature of 79.7 degrees edged past the previous record of 79.5 degrees in July 1931 and was five degrees warmer than normal.

“This is not some fluke. This is part of a sustained trend,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times.

Temperatures in California have risen steadily over the past century. Eight of the 10 hottest Julys on record have occurred since 1996, and four of the top 10 since 2013.

The hot, dry and sometimes windy conditions “created ideal wildfire conditions,” NOAA’s report on July’s weather said. The destructive Carr, Ferguson and Mendocino Complex fires were among the many set off in July. Those three fires alone have burned over a half-million acres. The Mendocino Complex Fire set the record for the state’s biggest,  surpassing the Thomas Fire in late 2017.

“The nighttime warmth has been especially extraordinary so far this summer in California,” Swain tweeted. “Preliminary data suggest that overnight temperatures this July were warmest on record across most of state, including areas near ongoing major fires and in Los Angeles County.”


The weather station at UCLA, which has kept measurements since 1933, posted a high of 111 degrees, crushing the previous July 6 record of 89 and topping its record of 109 set Sept. 20, 1939. Other locations that set all-time highs include:

  • Hollywood Burbank Airport, 114 degrees
  • Van Nuys Airport, 117 degrees
  • Ramona, 117 degrees
  • Santa Ana, 114 degrees
  • Riverside, 118 degrees (tying record from 1925)

July’s average temperature at Death Valley, the state’s hottest location, was a searing 108.1 degrees, the highest monthly temperature ever observed not only in California but anywhere on the planet.