Words You Never Hear in LA: There's A Hurricane Heading Our Way

Hurricane Rosa could mean big surf off the coast of Southern California. (Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

If you were hoping Hurricane Rosa would drench Southern California, we're sorry to disappoint you: the L.A. area is only going to get a sprinkle of rain. *sigh*

WHAT HURRICANE?

Hurricane Rosa as pictured off the coast of central Mexico on Sept. 27, 2018. (Image courtesy National Weather Service)

Hurricane Rosa is currently off the coast of central Mexico and is spinning its way Northeast. It's likely to make landfall sometime Monday night northern Baja California. Far eastern California and Arizona are likely to see the heaviest rain, with flooding possible in the Phoenix area late Monday night.

WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN?

In SoCal, the biggest effects might be at the beaches, where six to 10 foot waves are expected. But as for rainfall, Rosa doesn't pack much punch: the National Weather Service is expecting less than half an inch of moisture in Southern California sometime between Monday and Wednesday, according to meteorologist Casey Oswant.

HURRICAN'T (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)

Hurricanes are rare in Southern California. Only two have made landfall in the last 150 years, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. That's because a) the air in Southern California is very stable, so it makes it hard for storms to form, and b) the water is too cold. Hurricanes need warm water above 80 degrees to form, and typically, the coast of Southern California is in the low 70s, even in the summer.

But that could change as ocean temperatures rise. This summer, the water hit a record 78.6 degrees off the coast of La Jolla, the highest recorded in over a century. That could mean more storms forming in the South Pacific.

The likelihood of hurricanes actually making landfall in Southern California, however, is so low, that "even if the risk increases somewhat, the risk is still going to be low," Swain said.

More likely is that we could get rain from future storms that, like Rosa, make landfall to the south and east.

"We do tend to see precipitation that result from storms that miss us by a few 100 miles to the south," Swain said, "and it does seem like that tends to happen more often in years when Eastern Pacific Ocean is warmer than average."

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.


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