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The Coldest Winter in Southern California Could Be a Natural Weather Pattern

The Coldest Winter in Southern California Could Be a Natural Weather Pattern

Cooler temperatures — and maybe some showers — headed to SoCal this weekend.

A new study released Monday suggests that extreme cold may be a normal part of the annual meteorological event in Southern California.

While meteorologists have long feared the worst was coming this winter, they’ve been told by the weather gods that the average wintertime cold spell — the one that never really ends — would only last a few months. In Southern California, however, a third-year cold spell in December is nothing to sneeze at.

The latest study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research looks at seven years of the National Climatic Data Center’s records, which provide comprehensive information on all kinds of weather events. It finds that the coldest winter on record in California went 14 months — from December 2006 to February 2009 — without any significant cold weather events.

The previous coldest December in Southern California was in 2004, when temperatures were 12.5 degrees below normal. The current winter, which began in December 2006, is 15.8 degrees below average.

A report in the Daily Breeze, a newspaper in El Monte, said there’s been a lot of discussion about the unusually long period of cold weather that has plagued Southern California after a series weak El Nino.

But that’s just not the case, said the study’s co-author, Robert Rohde, a climatologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“The cold event does not appear to be caused by an extended period of low atmospheric pressure, but rather a result of a natural weather pattern that is itself a local weather feature,” Rohde wrote in an email.

“We did not take into consideration the impact of such a pattern on precipitation or temperature across Southern California,” he said.

That’s an important point, because one of the key questions of the study was how the El Nino could have made such a difference in the coldest winters in the recent past.

Researchers looked at the temperature records of El Nino years from 1998 to 2010, and they divided them up into cold- and warm-weather types and compared them to the current winter. They found the coldest winter was in 2010, when the average temperature was 2.9 degrees below normal.

This winter is the third in a row to top the list of the coldest winter in Southern California. The other two years were 2004, which peaked at 6.7 degrees below

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