In California, a heat wave in the middle of winter


February 16, 2022 at 1:59 p.m.,

Reading time: 3 minutes

Climate World

Washington (USA), correspondence

The Los Angeles area has experienced a scorching Super Bowl this year. Nearly 27 ° C on Sunday in Inglewood, where the SoFi stadium is located, which hosted the final of the American football championship, in the middle of February. The record of 29°C in Los Angeles in 1973 was ultimately not beaten, but the temperature remains abnormally high for the season, since it is generally around 20 degrees at this time of year.

California, and in particular Southern California, was hit for a week with temperatures of over 28°C. This western American state is used to heat waves and drought, but not in the middle of winter, which is moreover for several days. This heat wave, which began to fade on Tuesday February 15, was accompanied by gusts which stoked fires in places, in Azusa, Laguna Beach or Whittier, where two houses were burned.

From a meteorological point of view, it is caused by an anticyclonic ridge — an axis of high atmospheric pressure — which creates conditions for sunny blue skies. Added to this are the famous Santa Ana winds, which advance from the interior of the land through the canyons, becoming increasingly hot and dry.

«  The average temperature in February is increasing »

The strength and scale of the high, which covers the western United States almost to the Canadian border, is unusual, noted Rich Thompson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, interviewed by the Los Angeles Times. Can climate change influence it ? It is quite possible, but scientists are still working on the question of the link between high temperatures and atmospheric circulation.

Karen McKinnon, climatologist at the University of California (UCLA), also interviewed by the Los Angeles Timeshowever, recalls what we already know: the higher concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has undeniably caused a rise in temperatures. «  The average temperature in February is rising, and it’s clearly linked to climate change »she explains.

This heat associated with extreme drought is part of an underlying trend in the region. According to a study published on February 14 in the journal Nature Climate Change, the American Southwest has been experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years since the 2000s. The authors attribute to human-induced climate change 19 % of severe drought of 2021 and 42 % of drought since the XXIand century began.

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