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There Are Going To Be More Days Of 'Extreme' Heat In L.A.

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Westwood Boulevard (Photo by Hugh via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Los Angeles is going to experience three or four times as many days of "extreme" heat unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, according to a recent study.Published in the Journal of Climate, three UCLA researchers say that by 2050 parts of Los Angeles County could experience up to 90 more days of temperatures over 95 degrees. Inland portions of the county will be affected the most, as coastal areas will have the presence of the ocean to moderate temperatures.

The warming temperatures are inevitable, as greenhouse gases continue to build up in the atmosphere. "We have to adapt to climate change," Alex Hall, one of the authors of the study, told the L.A. Times.

"Except for the highest elevations and a narrow swath very near the coast, land locations will likely see 60 to 90 additional extremely hot days per year, effectively adding an entirely new season of extreme heat," the study read.

Downtown Los Angeles is predicted to see 54 more days of extreme temperatures. Although the findings sound startling, it is part of a continuing trend of rising temperatures. In 1878, the annual average downtown was 62 degrees—today it is 68 degrees.

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A separate study (.pdf) by researchers at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation finds that the increase in extreme temperatures will hit the water supply of inland areas, such as the San Gabriel Valley, particularly hard. These inland areas tend to be suburban and have lawns, golf courses, and parks that use lots of water to be maintained. "We know that most residential water use in Southern California is for irrigating landscapes and lawns," said Henry McCann, lead author of the Luskin report.

The climate study finds that the number of extreme heat days could still be cut down if there are enough reductions in greenhouse gases. Downtown could see only 15 more days of high temps instead of 54, if the proper measures are taken.

"The most important message we want to convey is that it really depends on each scenario we choose—whether we keep on putting carbon dioxide in the air," said Fengpeng Sun, lead author of the study.

And it's not just carbon emissions from cars. Urbanization from a growing population createst heat islands, and the demand for more air conditioning during high-heat days would create more demand for electricity, which also contributes to carbon emissions. "The whole thing snowballs," says JPL climatologist William Patzert. "That's an appropriate term because there’s no snow."