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Heat Wave Interrupts El Niño in SoCal

Some cities in Southern California saw daily temperature records broken this week as an unusual heat wave interrupted what has been an El Niño-fueled rainy, cold winter in the region.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles International Airport recorded a temperature of 89 degrees on Monday, enough to break the record for that date by 4 degrees. Downtown San Francisco tied a previous record of 74 degrees, while a day earlier, Fullerton was reportedly the hottest city in America with a high of 89 degrees.

The unusually warm weather is reportedly due to a storm-repelling high pressure system moving over southern California and Nevada. In the short term at least, the system has succeeded in keeping drenching rainstorms brought on by the current record El Niño away from the region, and California weather forecasts show more dry, warm and windy conditions are expected through much of the next week.

The heat wave has arrived at a critical time for California as it attempts to leverage the power of El Niño to help dig itself out of a crippling drought. While some storms have lashed the state, leading to flooding, mudslides and even threats of large-scale destruction, California will need much more rain and snow to make a significant dent in the drought.

The Sierra Nevada snowpack — which, in an average year, supplies the state with roughly 30 percent of annual water supply — measured 103 percent of average on Wednesday, an encouraging figure compared to last year’s dismal levels. However, the snowpack must reach 150 percent of average on April 1, when snowpack levels typically peak, for the state to have made progress at officially ending the drought.

There are some reasons to be cautiously optimistic: California’s largest reservoirs are slowly filling again, residents have complied with Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory 25 percent cutback order on water usage and the largest desalination plant in the Western hemisphere opened in Carlsbad last month.

Still, the state has adopted a wait-and-see approach before taking into account any progress it may have made in the battle against the drought. Last week, water officials extended Brown’s mandatory conservation order for an additional nine months; the regulations were scheduled to expire in February.

For now, though, Californians like Dashiell Reinhardt will continue to soak up the sun while they can.

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