Living just a few miles from where yet another wildfire is burning in the Saddleback Mountains, I get little solace from the fact that Southern California’s weather is all-too predictable.
This region had the nation’s smallest margin of day-to-day change in their weather last year, according to my trusty spreadsheet. The fact that, mathematically speaking, we live with the most predictable weather in America could sound appealing, at first blush. Same-old, same-old certainly helps manage the wardrobe or outdoor event planning.
But when you’re stuck in searing, wildfire-producing drought conditions, you might wish for some weather volatility. Like a chance of a significant rain shower to cool off or douse the burning brush.
My review here of weather predictability is not about the oft-debated patterns of climate change. Instead, let’s look at Southern California and its extended periods of heat (like we’re now suffering through currently) or its lengthy dry spells (as the region’s known for) and how there’s not much hope for quick change.
On a typical Southern California day, what you experienced today is likely to be tomorrow’s weather, too!
I tabulated Southern California’s lack of weather variation by tossing into my trusty spreadsheet some intriguing weather data for 2017 from Forecast Advisor, a website that looks at the daily volatility in temperature and precipitation from 786 weather stations across the nation.
Looking at the ebb-and-flow of heat, chill and the wet stuff every 24 hours, the 25 Southern California weather stations tracked — from Oxnard to the Mexican border — ranked last year among places with the nation’s highest chance of repeat performances every day from Mother Nature. The further north and east you go in the U.S., the more likely it is that tomorrow’s weather won’t be much like today’s.
So ponder these 13 patterns I found — region vs. state vs. nation — in terms of the daily changes in 2017’s high and low temperatures as well as overnight switches from dry to precipitation, or vice versa — plus my composite ranking of those weather-trend movements compiled from Forecast Advisor’s scorecard.
1. SoCal shines: On only 8.9 percent of the days in 2017 did Southern California weather go from rain-to-shine (or vice versa) vs. 14.5 percent of the time in the rest of the state and 30.9 percent elsewhere. Southern California’s daily high temperatures varied on average by 3.9 degrees a day vs. 4.2 degrees in the rest of the state and 5.7 degrees in other states. And the thermometer’s daily lows? Varied by 3.9 degrees a day in this region vs. 4.8 degrees elsewhere in California and 6.9 degrees in other states.
2. Most overall stable: San Diego’s downtown area had the nation’s least changing weather, by my composite index. Precipitation changed just 10.3 percent of the days, No. 25 nationally; highs varied only 3.2 degrees on average, No. 25 in the U.S.; and lows averaged varying 2.35 degrees, No. 4 among the stations tracked.
3. Next for stability: Santa Monica was No. 2 nationally; Oxnard and Carlsbad, tied for No. 3; and Los Angeles at LAX, the nation’s fifth most-serene climate. Yes, SoCal has the top five!
4. Most stable non-California weather: Hawaii’s Kailua Kona with a No. 6 overall ranking highlighted by two national bests: temperature highs varied by only 1.1 degrees as its lows averaged 1.7 degrees of daily change.
5. Least precipitation change: It’s the Mojave desert’s Thermal where dry-vs.-rain switches happened only 4 percent of the time. (Thermal ranked 35th overall for weather stability.)
6. Most volatile in SoCal: Lancaster. Precipitation varied just 7.9 percent of the days, 10th lowest nationally and highs varied 4 degrees, also No. 10 in the U.S. But the evening chill sets Lancaster apart: its lows varied 6.6 degrees day-to-day, ranking No. 299 nationally.
7. Our worst is still low: Please note that Lancaster, with the region’s most varied weather, looks stable on the national scale as the High Desert city ranked 104th most-predictable locale among the 786 tracked nationwide.
8. SoCal’s other volatile spots: After Lancaster, my index shows Campo (No. 86 nationally) then Ramona (67), Palmdale (64), Van Nuys (53) and Chino Hills (41).
9. Elsewhere in SoCal: From the four counties covered by the Southern California News Group, my overall national rankings out of 876 included: Hawthorne, No. 7 most predictable climate, Palm Springs (19), Blythe (21), Fullerton (22), Burbank (24), Long Beach (24), Riverside (31), Ontario (36) and Daggett (37).
10. Nation’s least predictable: Low rank went to Fryeburg, Maine, where on an average day there’s a 41.5 percent chance precipitation will be different the next day as highs vary by 7.5 degrees and lows change by 9 degrees.
11. Next in weather flip-flops: The northeastern corner of the nation was also home to the next five most-unpredictable weather patterns: No. 2 Barre, Vt., then Lebanon, N.H., Concord, N.H., Caribou, Maine, and Saint Johnsbury, Vt. It’s why packing layers is a must for any New England trip!
12. Other extremes: Nationally, the top spot for rain-or-shine flip-flops was Montgomery, N.Y., where the precipitation switches on 46 percent of the days. Biggest variations in high temperatures were in Goodland, Kan., averaging 8.8 degrees daily. And lows fluctuated the most in Lake Clear, N.Y., by 11.1 degrees on average.
13. Elsewhere: How did my overall national rankings score some well-known towns around the nation? Phoenix had the ninth most-predictable weather. There there was San Francisco at No. 14, Las Vegas (43), Seattle (72), Orlando (96), Portland (130), Austin (204), Denver (364), Chicago (365), Detroit (398), Kansas City (466) … my hometown of New York (482) … and the city I lived in for seven years with some seriously wacky weather, Pittsburgh at No. 695 of the 786!
Juan Zamudio, 7, plays with other children in La Pintoresca Water Park in Pasadena as temperatures rise during a heat wave on Thursday, July 5, 2018. The forecast for Pasadena on Friday is 109 degrees. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
Campers participating in the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Summer Camp paddle Corcls in the Castaic Lake Lagoon as temperatures begin to climb around the region Thursday afternoon.(photo by Andy Holzman)
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Thousands of beach goers flock to Huntington Beach to escape the heat wave in late July 2017. Expect hot weather after the 4th of July for much of Southern California. (File Photo by MARK RIGHTMIRE, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/SCNG)
Grey skies and rain didn’t stop visitors to the Korean Friendship Bell in San Pedro on Wednesday morning May 30. (Photo By Charles Bennett)
Clouds lie low in Huntington Beach, a good day to go for a spin on Monday, May 21, 2018. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Redlands Bicycle Classic organizers tweeted this photo on Wednesday morning, May 2, 2018 with the words “Well, this doesn’t look good.” An hour later they cancelled the Big Bear Lake stage of the race due to inclement weather. The race will now start with Stage 2 Thursday in Yucaipa. (via Twitter)
Fans tries to stay warm in the chilly afternoon weather as they watched North play Valley View in an Inland Valley League game Tuesday in Riverside, Calif. May 1, 2018.
(TERRY PIERSON,THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE/SCNG)
A visitor gets wet feet in the fountain at the Hollywood and Highland shops in Hollywood to cool off. ( Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
The weathervane at the Centennial Farm at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Local ski resorts, like Snow Valley Mountain Resort pictured here Thursday, March 15, 2018, are enjoying the several inches of snow the latest weather system dumped on Inland Empire mountains and more is expected through St. Patrick’s Day weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
(Photo by Kevin Somes/Snow Valley for The Sun/SCNG)
Costco shoppers protect themselves from moderate showers early Saturday evening Mar. 10, 2018. Showers are expected to continue through 5 a.m. the next day in Moreno Valley, Calif., according to the National Weather Service.(Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
A snow-covered Santiago Peak rises above Rancho Santa Margarita Lake in Rancho Santa Margarita early Tuesday morning, February 27, 2018, after a combination of low overnight temperatures and storms moved through the area. People out for a morning walk around found themselves pulling out their camera phones to take photos of the snow-covered peaks as the clouds cleared away.
(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Lila Guevara, 5, of Banning, Calif. hurls snowballs at mom. She took advantage of freezing temperatures, snow showers and strong, gusty winds at Oak Glen Preserves at Oak Glen, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. (PHOTO BY CINDY YAMANAKA, THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE/SCNG)
A jogger takes advantage of the warm weather as she makes her way through in Redondo Beach Monday, January 29, 2018. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova Daily Breeze/SCNG)