Autumn Makes a Sultry Entrance

California’s heat wave came late and is staying late

Craig Miller

Sunset on San Pablo Bay. Coastal areas saw a balmy end to September, accompanied by air quality alerts.

The Great American Heat Wave of 2012 arrived later in California than in many parts of the country — and it’s in no hurry to leave.

Having nudged the upper 90s on Sunday, Sacramento closed out the month of September with a record 26 days of 90-plus highs, surpassing the 1974 record of 24 days. The trend is forecast to continue into the first several days of October, with a chance of hitting 100 for the first time since mid-August. Farther north, Sacramento Valley towns like Redding and Red Bluff are suffering similar bake-offs.

Dry heat persisted up and down California, accompanied by red-flag warnings for fire danger along the South Coast. Of course, it’s that time of year, when the sea breeze backs around and “offshore flows” become the dreaded Santa Anas (in the south) and Diablos (in the north), notorious for fanning catastrophic wildfires. Air quality suffers during these periods, even without fires. Air quality regulators placed a Spare-the-Air Alert in effect for Monday in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For a vivid visual review of the world’s extreme weather in 2012, the World Resources Institute constructed a timeline of major events, which currently runs through August and WRI says it plans  to continue updating.