A new UCLA study demonstrates that climate change could cause temperatures throughout the Los Angeles region to rise by 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century. These results could mean a tripling of extremely hot days in downtown LA and even more misery in outlying populous areas including the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. Even if greenhouse gasses were cut globally, the Los Angeles area and its 18 million residents would still see temperatures increased to about 70 percent of projected levels.
Alex Hall, a UCLA climate expert, led the study with a large team of researchers and graduate students. The team evaluated the years 2041 to 2060 to predict average regional temperature changes. In contrast to most global climate models, which use grids 60 to 120 miles wide, the UCLA study was very granular – a grid of 1.2 mile wide squares was imposed on an area that ranges from Orange County to Palm Springs and then northwest towards Santa Barbara.
The long term forecast is certainly bleak. Coastal communities such as Santa Monica, Venice and Santa Barbara will see increased temperatures ranging from 3.7 to just under four degrees Fahrenheit. But the real misery will be in towns that already endure scorching summers, such as Big Bear Lake and Palm Springs. Those areas are projected to have average temperatures soar by an average of five degrees.
The impact on this region, which accounts for about $750 billion in economic activity, is huge. Higher temperatures will increase the demand for energy needed for air conditioning, which will strain an already feeble grid. And in an area already confronting water scarcity, the increased demand for this precious resource will only add to California’s already toxic political climate. The area’s ecosystems will also come under increased strain. But what is most unsettling is what we do not know: what will be the effects on weather patterns including those Santa Ana winds and those long bouts of June gloom fog?
Photos of Downtown LA from Runyon Canyon and Palos Verdes at Sunset courtesy Leon Kaye