California’s winters are famously known to be relatively mild. However, the recent heat wave, which sent temperatures into the mid-to-high 70’s (Fahrenheit), is unusually severe for the Bay Area this time of year.
Temperatures in the area during the month of February do not generally go above 60 degrees, with the historical average hovering around 52 degrees. To illustrate just how hot it has gotten, the current temperatures that the Bay Area is experiencing are fairly standard for the summer months.
“Whether you think that last year was the third hottest year on record or the second hottest, we are increasingly warmer,” Ann Akey, Woodside’s environmental science teacher, comments.
The Bay Area weather contrasts starkly with conditions at the Winter Olympics, which started on February 9th in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“I think it’s very ironic that we’re watching on TV all these events on ice and snow [in the Winter Olympics], and [it’s hot here],” Evan Farrar, a Woodside senior, states.
The lack of snow in the Sierra Nevada is not only bad for winter sports in the area, but also California snowpack, a vital source of water over the hot summer months
“The snowpack… generally melts slowly over the course of many months, gradually releasing drinking water,” Akey explains. “If we don’t have a snowpack because it’s so warm, what does that mean [for the water supply]?”
Ski resorts in California are also not faring well, with the lack of snow negatively affecting the quality of the skiing experience. Many resorts also have limited the number of runs that they keep open. This thought is especially painful for skiers and snowboarders who remember when Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964.
Akey states, “I would not invest in ski resorts in California. We have a number that are not opening and have limited snow.”
The heat wave has also caused some flowering plants to bloom now, in February, when they usually flower at the start of summer.
“All the things that I do as a gardener or farmer should already have been done because [plants] that are usually dormant at this time of year are not,” Akey comments.
While it’s possible that the recent heat could simply be a fluctuation from the annual average, it could also be a harbinger of the warmer winters to come.
“Yes, last year was the hottest year on record, yes this year is the hottest year on record,” Farrar states. “Yet long term over several decades, I’m not sure whether this is necessarily a part of the long term trend.”