The big chill
August 11, 2010
It’s been a long cold summer.
Whether the record-setting chill of July and early August makes this L.A.’s best or worst summer depends a lot on where you live—and a little on what you value most in the season. While waiters in Venice have had to hand out blankets to rooftop lounge patrons, kids in Sylmar have been able to frolic in an unusually temperate county park.
Hotter weather is expected this weekend—finally—and there are a lot of potentially scorching days yet to be logged before the sun sets on the summer of 2010. But what’s happened so far is unusual enough that the National Weather Service was moved to put out a statement Wednesday headlined, “What has happened to summer in Southern California?”
(The answer, in short, is that an upper level offshore trough—the kind that usually shows up in the fall or winter—has decided to park itself off the West Coast for the last 2 1/2 months.)
The ensuing, and seemingly endless, June gloom has led to some stunning temperature readings.
The average temperature of 65.7 degrees at LAX tied the record for the coldest July on the books since statistics started being kept in 1944, the weather service said. (July of 2010 shares the distinction with 1948 and 1965.) The high of 65 degrees logged at the airport on July 8, the weather service noted, “would be below normal even for January!”
With the weather service using exclamation points to underscore the drama of the situation, it’s no surprise that the coastline chill has led to some national media attention.
At Venice’s Hotel Erwin, waiters have had to hand out blankets and crank up heaters at the High Rooftop Lounge.
Even with such amenities, business is off as fewer patrons brave the uncharacteristically cool elements to enjoy 360-degree views from the hotel, which overlooks Muscle Beach.
“I’ve worked at outdoor restaurants for 6 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Tiffany McClintock, a food and beverage manager at the High, as she calls it. “The weather has had a huge impact…We expect June gloom, but it’s August and usually we have summer by now.”
Although summer has been pretty much a bust for bronzing (which isn’t good for you anyway), it’s been a boon on the green side of things because power usage has dropped along with temperatures. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says that, since July 1, customers have been using 5.2% less than the department had forecast.
That’s a lot fewer air conditioners being cranked up.
“In cooler weather, there’s reduced demand for power, and that’s what we’re seeing,” said Michael Cockayne, supervisor of load forecasting at DWP.
A really hot summer day will demand 5,500-5,700 megawatts, he says. On Wednesday afternoon, the peak load was at about 3,830 megawatts.
“That’s very low,” he said,
Cockayne warns that no one should get too complacent, however. Peak power use days typically begin in earnest about the middle of August. “It’s a pretty good chance that we’ll see more peak days between August 15 and September 15,” he said.
So far this summer, though, the cooler weather has meant a break for lifeguards at county beaches, who’ve performed 3,050 rescues since June 1—compared to 6,745 in the same period last year.
Overall beach attendance is down, too, to just over 13 million visits in July. That’s well below the 18.9 million visits last July, but above the month’s average of 12.4 since 2000.
The cool summer has also offered a break to the elderly.
One measure of that is the fact that cooling centers have had to be activated only once this summer, notes Ellie Wolfe, manager of internal services for the county’s Community and Senior Services Department.
“I’m loving it,” Wolfe said. “It’s been a much safer and saner summer—so far.”
Kids attending summer camp at the county’s El Cariso Park in Sylmar have been enjoying cooler-than-usual days for field trips and park activities. “It’s been a whole lot nicer than last summer,” said Sandra Chapman, the park’s recreation supervisor.
At the El Cariso pool, the usually sweltering deck has stayed cooler this summer, to the delight of sunbathers. “People seem to love it because the weather is, like, perfect,” said pool manager Mike Baham. As for the lifeguards, “none of ‘em got burned this year.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Jamie Meier, stationed in Oxnard, hears it from both sides of the hot and cold debate.
“I get mixed reviews,” she said. Her family, living on the Westside, tells her: “Our air conditioning bill has been fantastic.” But a friend visiting from Texas was not so enthusiastic, summing up her feelings with a simple: “California is cold!”