Environment & Science

California just had its hottest summer ever

Heat waves rise near a heat danger warning sign in Death Valley National Park, California.
Heat waves rise near a heat danger warning sign in Death Valley National Park, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

Listen to story

01:06
Download this story 0.0MB

It’s official: 2016 was California’s hottest summer in recorded history. Of the top 10 hottest summers in the state's history, five of those have been within the past decade. 

But some parts of the Golden State were hotter than others. Inland Southern California was especially warm, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The record heat follows four years of drought, which has also exacerbated the problem. Dry soil and parched plants lead to warmer temperatures, said Nina Oakley, a climatologist with NOAA's Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nevada.

The mountain communities just north of the Tejon Pass — along the I-5 freeway where Kern, Los Angeles and Ventura counties meet — are struggling with both high temperatures and lack of water.

In 2014, community wells began running dry and residents started hauling water. So former board president of the local water agency Michael Hightower began praying for rain at public board meetings.

"He just felt it would put an ease to people if they felt they were doing something," his wife, Patricia, said. Michael died last winter. She said he also prayed for the people who did not have air conditioning, and therefore had no relief from the heat.

"We used to think if it got to be 88 or 90 degrees we were dying, but it’s been getting hotter than that now," she said.