California just had its warmest late-winter ever, by far

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California just had its warmest January-March period ever, according to new NOAA data.

The state averaged 53.0°F during the period, dwarfing the 20th-century average of 45.5°F. And it breaks last year's record of 51.2°F.

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At one point last month, it got as hot as 96°F in Santa Ana, near Los Angeles.

The trend is the result of the combination of long-term climate change and local climate variability, according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

And he told Fusion that the state's four-year drought is both the cause of and a response to the heat wave.  A ridge of high atmospheric pressure caused by warming sea surface temperatures keeps pushing land temps upward.

"That tends to limit precipitation, and tends to limit cloud cover," he said, "and the [lower] cloud cover cover tends to drive temperatures upward. Also, the lack of precipitation tends to cause drought, and the drought tends to cause temperatures to go up, so it's kind of a feedback loop: The ridge causes drought, the drought cause higher temps, and that reinforces the ridge."


Crouch said his unit does not make predictions but that given, the heat wave is likely to persist given that the state is about to enter its dry season.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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