Rain lingers over parts of California from big, slow-moving storm cells, often too weak to form thunderstorms.
But for the last decade or so, the stormy skies have been filled with an ominous cloud of smoke rising from the region that’s at the epicenter of a national crisis over climate change.
After years of warming, the thick, dark, dirty smoke blanketed the state in the summer of 2017-18, and it’s only gotten worse.
The state is a big, blue marble shaped like a baseball glove. Its eastern and southern edges are oceanic. The Bay Area is inland. In 2015, scientists used satellite data to show that the northern part of the state had warmed faster than the rest. The region was then labeled “hot spot.”
The most recent heat wave was the worst on record. California is home to about 1.5 million people, many of them in “heat islands,” where the humidity from several big storms can raise summer temperatures by 30 to 40 degrees.
Heat waves are not new. They’re in the climate change playbook. But they’re growing more frequent and intense.
The heat wave that struck the Central Valley in the summer of 2017 was the worst on record for at least 10 years.
The heat wave that struck the Central Valley in the summer of 2017 was the worst on record for at least 10 years. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)
For the state’s 1.5 million residents, it was an environmental nightmare. The heat took a physical toll. There were droughts, wildfires and heavy rain. People suffered.
It was a year when the air-conditioned West Coast welcomed visitors from around the world, from Japan and Taiwan to New Zealand and South Africa.
And the heat wave was made harder by a rapidly warming atmosphere. The Central Valley is at the convergence of three different weather systems: oceanic, land and atmospheric.
The ocean’s influence on the Central Valley, especially in the summer months, can be felt from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That’