Just How Snowy And Cold Has It Been Here In Southern California? Some Details Might Surprise You
Around this time a year ago, we were deep in drought and wrapping up another hotter than usual winter.
Now, we’ve got chilly temperatures and an overwhelming amount of snow.
So, just how out of the ordinary has this winter been?
Our snowpack across the Southern Sierra is at 232% of normal, and downtown L.A. is experiencing chilly daytime highs we haven’t seen since the 1970s.
So much snow
We’ve had a steady flow of snow for some months now, but this most recent storm dumped an unprecedented amount of powder, particularly on the San Bernardino Mountains, leaving people stranded and needing rescue.
“Fifty to 110 inches of snow in a seven-day period. We haven’t recorded that before,” said Alex Tardy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
In Big Bear, 81 inches fell in just one seven-day period. The last time records show anything close was when the area was inundated with 58 inches in 1979.
One silver lining: All that rain and snow has made a dent in drought conditions in the state.
Read more: Some Of California Is Free Of Drought, But The Climate Crisis Is Changing What That Means
So many cold days
You also have to go back to the 1970s to find a time when downtown L.A.’s daily highs have been this cold through winter. So basically, no 72 degrees and sunny for us this winter.
Have you noticed the winter being cooler than usual? For the meteorological winter (Dec-Feb), the average daytime high temp at Downtown #LosAngeles was 64.9°, the coolest since the winter of 1978-79. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/nEeOdDe3UI— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) March 5, 2023
Surprisingly, this period wasn't the coldest we've seen even recently. There are a lot of variables to consider, but average daily temperature in downtown L.A. (across highs and lows) was colder in the 2000-2001 winter and in 1978.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve also seen below average temperatures up in our mountains over the past few months.
What about climate change?
Climate scientists have long talked about more extreme weather events becoming more common as the climate continues to change. That doesn’t just mean longer, hotter periods of drought, but intense, devastating amounts of precipitation.
“It’s going to happen again, yes. I just don’t know when. No one does,” said Tardy.
More rain is coming soon
Models are showing there’s potential for a tremendous amount of rain to arrive in Southern California next week, according to the National Weather Service. We’re looking at a potential January-to-March window that’s on par with some of the wettest and snowiest years on record.
Here's the precip forecast from today through Sun AM for our area from the CA-NV River Forecast Center @CNRFC. The rain likely won't start until Thurs PM and peak on Fri. There is still uncertainty in the exact amount and location. #CAwx #LARain pic.twitter.com/G7ENx2EulG— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) March 6, 2023
Does it really feel colder to us here in SoCal?
Yes, yes it does.
There are a number of factors — including that our bodies adjust quickly to warmer or colder temperatures. You can read more about those factors in our story: Here’s Why Cold Weather Feels Colder In LA. And No, It's Not Just In Your Head
The view from space
That dramatic influx of snow is visible in these NASA images released last week. These satellite shots show the change in the snow levels in Southern California from Feb. 10 to Feb. 26.
A look at years past when snows creeped into our citified neighborhoods, away from the mountains and foothills.
In the face of a drier future, that iconic piece of Americana is on its way out in Southern California.
Here’s everything you need to know about coyotes in Los Angeles County.
Alternative headline: A Coyote's Guide To Mating in L.A. But it's really more for humans.
The mountain lion's death comes about a month after the beloved P-22 was euthanized.
With one hikers still missing — the well-known actor Julian Sands — expert mountaineers say the usual scarcity of snow in the L.A.-area makes it especially hard to get enough experience to safely venture out in harsh conditions.