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Coldest winter on the Central Coast and Los Angeles since 1978-79

Freezing cold conditions and snow along the Central Coast
Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 06, 2023

New data shows this winter is the coldest winter on the Central Coast and Los Angeles since 1978-79.

National Weather Service Science Operations Officer John Dumas says the graphs above show how the winter temperatures tied the daily high average of 60 degrees in the winter of 1978-79.

"We have a variety of points throughout California that are climate data collection points, and so we record, not everything, but among the high and low temperatures is where that graph came from," Dumas said. "They averaged out for about a 60-degree temperature on that, so just looking at the line, yeah, it's been quite a while since we've had that."

Dumas added, "What we've had this year is apparently similar to 1979. We've had a lot of systems dropping down out of the Gulf of Alaska area. Instead of moving quickly through our area like a normal cold blow will do — they normally move from west to east pretty rapidly — they've been persistent. They've been hanging out in the area for quite a long time. It's not just a California phenomenon, it's gone on across the country. That's why we've had some long cold snaps, really long extended periods of snow or rain for the country."

National Weather Service officials also said that 1978-79 was particularly rainy, with 30% of the days in that time period recording rain with 0.1 inches of rain recorded each rain day.

In comparison, 2023 is at 20% so far but some of those days have been very heavy rain, according to the National Weather Services.

Dumas also spoke on how the extra rain and snow have impacted California's drought status. He said that California has been in a precipitation drought for years.

"If you think of someplace like Los Angeles, we only get about 15 inches of rain a year. One of these storms can produce 3-5 inches, so if you have one storm more suddenly, you're in a really good year. If you have one storm less, it's a big drought year cause there's so little to start with," Dumas said.

Currently, much of California's water right now is in the form of snow but a lot of the state is "not built to collect the run-off efficiently," Dumas added. As a result, a lot of the run-off might end up going to the ocean.

"Some of the rivers have been getting up to flood stage which is very unusual. I’ve worked in this office 10 years now and the only type of floods that I’ve had to deal with until now were flash floods, but now we're getting so much rain that the river levels are coming up."

Dumas concluded, "If you're new to California, even if you've lived here 10 years like I have, these are very unusual conditions."