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Looking for heat? Go east

A marine layer parked on the coast makes for a much cooler July than last year. Farther inland, it's summer as usual.

July 18, 2007|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

In the weather business, location is everything.

A marine layer has parked itself along the coast for a week now, resulting in a July of extremes:

Someone living in Santa Monica could very well ask where the summer went, with cool breezes and temperatures straining to reach 70 degrees.

In Burbank, the temperatures were a pleasant 81 degrees, while in Palmdale, highs reached 94. And Palm Springs is on a streak of 17 straight triple-digit days.

When you add it all up, it equals a perfectly average July -- despite the widespread complaints about a cloudy start to the summer.

The coast, and the areas closest to it, are always quite a bit cooler than more inland areas. But thanks to the cooling marine layer that has rolled in, the discrepancy between the Southland's microclimates is starker than usual.

"It depends on where you're at," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge. "If you live along the coast, you're benefiting from the marine layer, nature's air conditioner. But if you go farther inland, it's hot as hell."

The marine layer only really makes a big difference along the coast and perhaps 10 to 20 miles inland, Patzert said. A high-pressure system over the southwest that contributed to a very warm beginning of the month has begun to move east. At the same time, a low-pressure trough to the north has pushed a marine layer onshore to the south.

On the upside, at least the weather this July is not extreme as it was last year, when California experienced a record heat wave that left more than 100 dead and large parts of the Southland without power. Back then, the marine layer was strangely absent not only in July, but also in May and June. As a result, the region got little relief from baking temperatures.

Bonnie Bartling, a weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said temperatures in Southern California are expected go up this weekend, but not too drastically. In a lot of places not too far from the coast, this could mean even more pleasant weather.

"It's going to be nice," she said, adding that Saturday and Sunday are expected to see low clouds and patchy fog early in the day.

But the story is different for those who live in the Antelope Valley, parts of the San Fernando Valley and the Inland Empire. It's just going to be hotter.

Palmdale's streak of eight consecutive 100-degree-plus days ended earlier this month. But for the better part of the last week, highs have hovered around 100 degrees. So it has been cooler, but is still very hot.

Those who live in downtown Los Angeles and the central part of the city reside in a kind of neutral weather Switzerland.

"Downtown is a little more sheltered from extreme changes," Bartling said.

Highs of about 84 degrees are expected downtown this weekend -- a kind of midpoint between the coastal cool and the inland sizzle.

Patzert said he wouldn't bet on the rest of the summer being any cooler.

"I wouldn't pull the plug on the air conditioner," he said. "I think the rest of the summer will look more like the first week of July than the past week. And remember, September is the hottest month."

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