California is an outdoors lover’s dream.
With so many sunny days, it’s a beautiful place to live, work, and play.
While many people love California because of the sun and heat, the temperatures can be tricky at times.
Some parts of California can become excessively hot.
This can lead to droughts and even wildfires.
While California’s high temperatures may carry some risks, as long as you understand why it’s so hot and are prepared for the hot weather, you should be able to enjoy your time outside.
Why Is California So Hot? (6 Reasons Why)
California is hot because it has a high-pressure climate caused by the coastal mountains and greenhouse gases.
California gets a lot of sunshine and very little rain, which means it stays hot most of the year.
The greenhouse gases also trap heat, so it stays hotter for longer periods.
California’s location plays a big role in the heat levels.
While not all of California is hot all the time, some of the southern areas have extremely high temperatures.
Death Valley, which is part of the Mojave Desert, has experienced some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded.
The hottest temperature ever recorded in the Mojave Desert is 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
It regularly has temperatures around 100 degrees.
California has very high mountain ranges, and they help to block out winds from the north that would bring in cooler temperatures.
The prevailing winds also help prevent cold temperatures from setting in.
The state’s geography also creates a current that moves weather up and down the coast and along the beaches.
The water absorbs any cold air before it makes it to land, making the air even dryer and the weather hotter.
2. Dry Air
Because of the coastal mountain ranges in California, the air is extremely dry.
Although California is close to the ocean, the mountains pull the moisture from the air before it can get past the coast.
According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, California’s ridge of high pressure along the west coast pushes storms and cooler weather north into Alaska and Canada.
When storms and warm weather do come into the coast, the water absorbs most of the heat, so there is little humidity when it moves inland.
This means much of California is extremely dry.
California has a high-pressure climate that prevents rain and wet conditions.
This is also why there is so much fog in some regions such as San Francisco.
Some Northern areas of California are in the path of the cooler temperatures that are pushed up by the California Current and the mountain ranges.
These areas do get cooler temperatures and are less dry as well.
3. Greenhouse Gases
Greenhouse gases absorb radiation and trap heat.
Because California has so much pollution and high levels of greenhouse gasses, the heat gets trapped around the state and causes temperatures to rise.
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide make up greenhouse gases, and they work true to their name.
Just as a greenhouse holds in heat to help plants grow, greenhouse gases hold the heat in areas where they are plentiful.
In 2019, California contributed to 10.5 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per person.
More than 39 million people are living in California, and their daily activities increase the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases in the air over the state.
The warm climate and the high mountain ranges also keep heat trapped.
California has been working to reduce its greenhouse gases, and they have been on a decline since the early ’90s.
In fact, California is the leader in the United States when it comes to the efforts being made to slow global warming.
Unfortunately, California is still behind with its planned reduction.
A recent study released by the 2021 California Green Innovation Index shows that California will need to reduce its greenhouse gases by 4.3 percent each year from 2019 to 2030 to meet its goal for 2030.
What Are The Main Sources Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
According to the EPA, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is burning fossil fuels, but many other sources contribute to emissions numbers and global warming as well.
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse emissions.
As vehicles burn fossil fuels for energy, they release a lot of emissions.
Cars, trucks, boats, buses, and ships all burn gasoline and diesel.
More than 90% of the fuel used in transportation is petroleum-based.
California has much of the world’s transportation emissions, with 50% of all of the state’s emissions coming from this source.
The state is working to promote zero-emission vehicles in hopes of reducing greenhouse gases and reducing the state’s temperatures.
California is at the forefront of clean energy, but that doesn’t mean that many homes and businesses aren’t relying on fossil fuels to keep the lights and heat on.
The burning of fossil fuses to create energy causes an increase in carbon dioxide, which stays in the atmosphere and helps trap heat.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration,
California is the largest consumer of both jet fuel and motor gasoline in the United States.
California uses 17% or all the nation’s jet fuel and 11% of all motor gasoline.
3. Industrial Pollution
Many industries in California provide products or offer services that cause pollution.
Two of the most common pollutants include fine particulate matter and ozone.
These greenhouse gases are not only dangerous to California residents, but they also contribute to overall global warming.
They can also be responsible for rising temperatures in the state of California.
Agriculture is a huge source of emissions, and California alone is responsible for releasing 32 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
It also has a direct effect on California’s climate.
Agriculture is responsible for about one-fifth of the total greenhouse gases in the world.
It is California’s fifth-largest source of emissions.
Methane emissions per animal are high, and California has almost 80,000 farms that cover 25.3 million acres of land.
California’s forests assist with reducing its emissions and currently absorb 190 million extra metric tons of carbon dioxide.
However, California’s droughts and excessive heat also make forest fires more common.
As the forests are destroyed, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Wildfires also release particulate matter into the atmosphere, which can be harmful to the ozone layer and the health of residents.
6. Commercial And Residential Products
Products that are used in many residential homes and commercial businesses rely on fossil fuels for power and also release carbon dioxide.
These products can vary, but some of the most common are listed below.
- Soaps and detergents
- Drain cleaner
4. Amount Of Sunlight
California gets a lot of sunshine, with the area around San Diego getting around 3,055 hours of sunlight each year.
It is sunny 68% of the time.
The amount of sun that California receives is based on its geography and the curvature of the earth.
That sunlight directly affects the heat that is emitted by the sun.
The heat is absorbed by the ground and trapped by greenhouse gases and the mountain ranges in the state, so the temperatures increase over time.
Since the earth is round, the sun hits at different angles during different times of the day.
As the earth turns, the amount of sunlight changes as well.
The angle at which the sun’s rays hit the earth plays a huge role in solar radiation and heat.
The more slanted the angle, the more the rays are diffused.
The sun shines on California from almost directly above, which means there is less diffusion.
This also makes for longer days, with more sunlight.
As the earth revolves around the sun, it turns with a tilt.
This tilt means that certain regions are closer to the sun.
Earth’s tilt is also the reason we experience different seasons at different times.
Because of California’s location, it is close enough to the sun during all seasons to stay warm.
The southern areas, in particular, stay the warmest regardless of the temperatures in other parts of the state.
5. Low Water Levels
California is known for droughts and high temperatures, and the two work together to create a vicious circle.
The dry and hot air pulls the water out of the ground, and this creates a drought.
The drought traps the greenhouse gases and heats up the ground even more.
California’s coastal mountains also lead to drought by blocking rain and preventing humidity.
Scientists learn about historical droughts by studying tree rings.
The longest period of drought for the state lasted for six years and spanned from 1928 to1934.
California gets very little rain each year, and some years are worse than others.
On average, the state gets about 22 inches annually.
The lack of rain causes droughts, which can lead to higher overall temperatures.
When droughts occur, dry periods and hot periods normally overlap each other causing higher temperatures.
Some parts of California, such as the Mojave Desert, can get less than two inches of rain each year.
Wildfires are common in California and are a huge contributor to the state’s high temperatures and climate change.
Because California is so susceptible to drought, there is very little moisture in the soil.
The slightest spark can start a fire, and that fire can burn for many miles.
What rain California does get usually occurs in the fall and winter months.
During the summer months, when droughts are more common, the vegetation in the area dries out.
This makes it extremely flammable.
A lightning strike, dropped cigarette, or a spreading campfire can easily ignite this dry vegetation.
Due to the many other factors that make California so hot and dry, wildfires can easily grow and spread quickly.
This adds more heat and removes more moisture from the air, creating a vicious cycle of high temperatures and fires.
Climate change makes wildfires more likely to occur and makes them much worse than ever before.
When wildfires are stopped, there’s still a lot of dry vegetation left that didn’t burn.
This only makes it possible for it to be ignited again in the future.
This dry vegetation accumulates, making it the perfect place for new fires to start.
Because fires are fought and controlled so much, they are not removing any dead and dry vegetation.
Many scientists believe that wildfires should be monitored and controlled but also left to burn in certain areas to remove the accumulation of dead vegetation, so the fires occur less often.
California is fighting a losing battle with wildfires.
They have to be controlled and stopped when possible, to prevent damage and the loss of lives, but the more they are controlled, the more likely they are to reoccur.
Each time they reoccur, they have the potential to burn stronger and longer.
The heat from the fires dries out the soil even more and pulls moisture from the air.
The heat from the wildfires also gets trapped with greenhouse gases and makes certain parts of California even hotter.
How Do Wildfires Affect California’s Temperature?
Wildfires play a big role in the temperature and weather conditions in California.
As global warming becomes a bigger problem, the risk of wildfires also grows.
1. Breakdown The Natural Filter
Forests act as a natural filter that helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The forests of California hold a large amount of carbon dioxide, and when they are burned and destroyed, they release these emissions into the air.
The more trees and forests that are destroyed, the fewer filters are available and the more pollutants that are released into the air.
2. High Emissions
Not only do forests release the emissions they have been holding or filtering from other sources when they burn, but forest fires release their own emissions as well.
In fact, California’s wildfires can release 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
The more wildfires and emissions that are released, the more greenhouse gases are trapped around the state.
This leads to continued temperature increases and dry conditions, which causes more wildfires.
3. Damaged Soil
Healthy soil can help to filter emissions, but damaged soil will hold in the heat from a wildfire and then release it slowly.
In 2020, wildfires destroyed more than 4,397,809 acres of land in California.
Wildfires can burn as hot as 1,472° F.
When the soil is destroyed, it traps that heat.
The damaged or burnt soil and trees also trap in the heat and emissions of other sources, causing the areas around the fire to become hotter.
Are California’s High Temperatures A Problem?
As California’s temperatures rise, so do the days of extreme heat.
When this occurs, it can lead to problems.
Residents of California are used to hot days, but when droughts and excessive heat occur at the same time, it can be dangerous.
Some problems with high temperatures include,
- Health problems
- Drinking water shortages
- School closures
- Reduced outdoor events
- Unsafe working conditions
What Health Problems Are Associated With High Temperatures?
When people are exposed to high temperatures, many health problems can occur.
While many of these problems are not severe, if a person gets too hot for too long, they could face a medical emergency.
When it’s hot outside, it’s easier to become dehydrated.
When the body needs water, the muscles tend to cramp.
Cramps are most common in the arms and legs but can occur in any muscle.
Cramping can become so severe that it interferes with a person’s mobility.
Dehydration can be very dangerous.
It can occur quickly and is much more likely to occur in hot weather.
When the body does not have enough water, it starts to shut down.
Many people don’t feel thirsty when they are dehydrated and don’t feel the need to drink water, but the fact is that if you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated and have been for some time.
3. Blurred Vision
Blurred vision can be a sign that a person is overheating.
It can also be one of the first symptoms of heat stroke.
It can be related to dehydration, blood pressure, and even excessive sweating.
The heat can cause a lot of stress on the body, and it can shut down if it is exposed to high temperatures for too long.
Many people feel extremely tired after being in the heat and have to take cooldown breaks or get out of the sun to a cooler place.
5. Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is one of the most dangerous things that can occur in hot temperatures.
If any of the above signs occur but are ignored, they can escalate and lead to the body overheating.
Symptoms of a heat stroke can include confusion, sweating, dry mouth, low or high blood pressure, and fatigue.
Some people can even pass out and lose consciousness.
If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Tips To Beat The Heat In California
Spending time in the California heat can be a lot of fun.
There’s plenty to do outside, and as long as you are prepared for the high temperatures, you won’t have anything to worry about.
Here are some tips to help you beat the heat.
1. Limit Outdoor Time
While it can be tempting to spend a lot of time outdoors in the beautiful state of California, if there is a heat wave and the temperatures are high, it’s best to limit your outdoor time.
You can have some fun in the sun, but you must be sure to find a cool place to rest and cool off.
2. Drink Plenty Of Water
It’s important to drink plenty of water anytime it’s hot, or you will be outdoors.
Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and drink it even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Dehydration is common in hot areas, and the last thing you want to do is find yourself in a hospital when you could be enjoying a beautiful California day.
3. Dress Properly
It’s important to dress for the weather.
While California has various climate areas, if you know you are going to be out in the heat, be sure to dress properly.
Do not wear heavy clothing or anything that will keep the heat close to your body.
Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat or something to help keep the heat off you and keep your body temperature down.
You may also want to pack a change of clothes in case you get too hot in the outfit you have on.
4. Pay Attention To The Weather
Always check the weather when you are in a place that is notably hot, like California.
The weather may change, and the heat can go from average to excessive very quickly.
If you are planning a hike or another outdoor activity, you need to make sure you won’t be caught outside during the hottest part of the day without the proper gear or enough water.
5. Check On Pets And The Elderly
If you know there will be a heat advisory or a heat wave in California, it’s a good idea to check on your pets and the elderly.
Bring pets into the air conditioning if possible, or ensure they have a shady area to rest and plenty of cool water to drink.
Make sure elderly residents have their air conditioning units on and that those units are working properly.
You may want to stay with them during the heat wave or invite them to stay with you so you can help keep them comfortable and safe.
6. Check Your Car
The heat can put a lot of stress on your vehicle and even damage it.
The last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of the highway during a hot California summer day.
Make sure your car’s tires are in good condition and properly inflated.
Check the fluids in your vehicle and keep it filled up with gas.
You may also want to keep an emergency bag in your car that contains snacks and bottled water in case you were to get stranded on a hot day.
Another note about the car in hot weather is to never leave pets or small children in a parked car for any length of time.
The interior of the car will heat up extremely quickly, reaching dangerous temperatures within those few minutes you need to run into the store.
7. Don’t Get Greedy
When you are dealing with a heat wave, it can be easy to want to crank up the air and fill up your swimming pool.
Remember that droughts are common, so don’t waste water on things that aren’t necessary.
Also, keep in mind that using your air conditioning too much could cause problems with the electrical grid.
When everyone cranks up their units, it could overwhelm the grid and lead to a blackout.
Be reasonable and considerate of others around you so everyone can stay comfortable, even on the hottest days.