It was 114F (45.5C) here on Saturday. Welcome to Southern California! Today’s forecast high is 104F but at 12:30 pm it is already 103. The hottest part of the day is usually around 4 pm. When it gets super hot, the National Weather Service always seems to lowball the temperature forecast for my area. But I’ve got multiple thermometers to source from and they all agree within a couple degrees.

Could be worse. Death Valley has a projected high of 128F. Long ago they set the official world record at 134.0°F (56.7°C). That’s only 6 degrees away…

It isn’t that bad of a place to live. An hour in one direction and I can be at 8900 ft. The elevation change causes a 30-degree drop in temperature. Chaparral and scrub are replaced with Jeffrey Pine forests that offer much shade. The lack of obstructions allows for a decent breeze in most places.

An hour in a different direction and I’m at the beach. Another 30-degree temperature drop until you get right next to the water, then it is even more. The surface water off the coast here is in the 60s and will climb to 67 in August.  (Thank you, Californian Current! It makes us a desert but it also keeps the hurricanes away.) That moderates the heat greatly. We don’t have much of a winter down here. Frost at this elevation is rare and significant snow is a once a decade event.

The lack of humidity and cloud cover also means the temperatures will drop a lot at night. A 30F drop is normal and 40F is not uncommon. Desert creatures are usually nocturnal creatures.

Unlike the east coast, we have very low outdoor humidity. Usually below 20% and sometimes in the single digits. That means with enough water, sweat is extremely effective. You can be sweating like crazy and not even know it because it evaporates as fast as it comes out. (In hot dry weather, you don’t need to take a shower nearly so often as when it is hot and muggy.) The key is having enough water. Most people are underhydrated and don’t realize it.

Also because of this, an evaporative cooler is a practical way to cool a house. For the amount of water a long shower takes and far less than watering a lawn, I can keep it comfortable inside. When the humidity starts to climb during the monsoons, the “swamp cooler” is less effective. A couple of the bedrooms have small window mount air conditioner units to give us a cool space when we need it. Plus, one acclimates. 100F in May would be extremely oppressive but by July it isn’t that bad.

The original windows were all replaced with double glazed thermopane. Outside we’ve hung shade cloth in strategic locations to keep the afternoon sun from hitting the stucco directly. A thick layer of vines between our south-facing windows helps too. Recently had our roof replaced with heat reflective shingles and solar-powered ventilation fans. Then we had the attic reinsulated. It has to hit 90F out before I even bother turning on the swamp cooler.

Some of the houses out here have thousand-dollar electrical bills. Ours rarely hits a hundred. OTOH, some houses have solar and have no electrical bill at all. Since we don’t have a pool and water our landscape only minimally, our water consumption is lower than most.


I remember living on the Gulf coast for 6 months of technical school, at Keesler AFB in Biloxi. 90F and 90% humidity is a nightmare. They kept canceling afternoon PT because it was too dangerous. Air conditioning was the only way to stay comfortable and it didn’t cool down much at night. Even the ocean felt like tepid bathwater.

Yet since I was young and healthy and strong, I adapted. My Michigan body adapted to the Gulf coast environment and soon it stopped bothering me. I suppose that if I lived there still, I’d be horrified at the thought of living in 114F and 8% humidity. It is all perspective and what you are used to.