Things are heating up in California – and not just because it’s almost summer. The state – like the rest of the world – has been getting warmer and warmer every year. But the impact of that warming isn’t the same in every city.
On average, the United States is about 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in 1970, according to Climate Central, a group of scientists and journalists who research climate change and its impacts. But not all cities are warming at the same rate.
In California, the fastest warming cities, according to annual average temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, are:
- Fresno (+4 degrees)
- Chico (+3 degrees)
- San Francisco (+2.9 degrees)
- Santa Maria (+2.8 degrees)
- Palm Springs (+2.1 degrees)
The slowest warming cities, Climate Central found, are:
- Monterey (no noticeable increase)
- Los Angeles (+0.4 degrees)
- Eureka (+0.4 degrees)
- San Diego (+0.6 degrees)
- Bakersfield (+1 degree)
Stockton, San Jose, Sacramento and Salinas were all somewhere in the middle, with about 1.3 to 1.9 degrees of warming since 1970.
What has caused some California cities to heat up more than others over the past 50 years?
“One of the big factors is proximity to the ocean/large bodies of water,” explained Climate Central’s data analyst Kaitlyn Weber. “When you move farther inland, especially into the hot and dry Central Valley, cities like Chico and Fresno have continental climates which experience a larger range of temperatures both on a daily and seasonal basis.”
Nationwide, California is the 16th fastest warming state. That’s not great, but we also don’t have it as bad as states in the Northeast, where temperatures are going up faster thanks to the North Atlantic Ocean heating up, Weber said. Meanwhile, the Pacific Ocean is helping keep things cooler on the West Coast.
The state’s average annual temperature has gone up 2.9 degrees since 1970. That’s having an impact on our winters and our summers, Weber said.
“As winters become hotter and drier in California, our snowpack is really taking a hit from both sides as we face reduced precipitation, warmer temperatures, and earlier snowmelt – on top of extreme drought conditions,” Weber said. “And at the other end of the spectrum is wildfires. As temperatures increase due to climate change, so does the evaporative demand of the atmosphere. You can think of it as basically making the atmosphere ‘thirstier.'”
That makes the California landscape even drier, even further worsening fire conditions, she explained.
Climate Central analyzed data from 246 U.S. cities and found 99% of them — all but two — have gotten warmer in the past 52 years. Nearly 70% of the cities analyzed warmed by at least 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fastest warming city, the study found, is in California’s neighboring state of Nevada. Reno’s average annual temperature has jumped 7.7 degrees since 1970.