There’s a dark joke about this year’s extreme temperatures that has been haunting me for weeks: This is the coldest summer of the rest of our lives.
The prospect is nothing short of terrifying given what this year has wrought.
In June, sky-high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest killed as many as 600 people. Several hikers have been found dead in California in recent weeks, most likely because of temperatures that were above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Globally, July ranked as the hottest month in recorded human history.
So, from my Los Angeles apartment that regularly crosses 85 degrees indoors, I called some climate scientists and asked them, “Is every upcoming summer going to be even hotter than this one?”
The short answer was: Yes, generally.
Vijay Limaye, a climate and health scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me that each recent decade had been unmistakably warmer than the one before it, so it’s highly probable that future years will continue to break heat records.
“We should act like that’s going to be the case: that this will be the coldest summer when we look forward,” he said.
A United Nations report this month found that the Earth is locked into intensifying global warming for the next 30 years because countries have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long. Preventing further warming is within reach, but would require a coordinated and immediate worldwide effort, the report found.
The effects of climate change can be seen locally. The average high temperature in July in L.A. has risen by more than two degrees since the 1960s, as it has in Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and several other cities.
And it will probably keep climbing. In Los Angeles County in 1990, the average annual maximum temperature — an average of the high each day — was 74 degrees. In 2090, the average maximum temperature will be somewhere between 80 and 82 degrees, according to state projections.
“The climate that your children are going to experience is different than any climate that you have experienced,” Paul Ullrich, a U.C. Davis professor of regional and global climate modeling. “There was no possibility in your life span for the types of temperature that your children are going to be experiencing on average.”
But still, that doesn’t mean that 2022 in your city will definitely be warmer than 2021 has been. There are year-to-year fluctuations within this overall warming, especially at the local level. In California, for example, the climate phenomenon El Niño could make for an unusually chilly year.
“It’s really important not to set up these falsely simplistic expectations for the public,” said Julien Emile-Geay, climate scientist at the University of Southern California. “If we do put out the expectation that everything is gradually getting warmer, and then next year if it’s cooler, people will say, ‘Ha ha, climate change doesn’t exist.’”
But the larger trend is clear. The top seven warmest years on Earth were in the past seven years.
A guide from The Times on how to reduce your carbon footprint.
Between wildfires, drought and a resurgent virus, this summer has been rough. Is this the beginning of the end of summer as we’ve known it? My colleague Shawn Hubler reports.
The Times created this tool a few years ago that allows you to track warming in your hometown. (I learned that Thousand Oaks, where I grew up, experienced around 20 days of 90-plus degree weather annually in the early 1990s, but now sees closer to 30.)
If you read one story, make it this
Thirteen American military personnel were killed in the Kabul airport attack last week — some of the last casualties of America’s longest war. President Biden flew to Delaware to witness the transfer of remains on Sunday.
Of the 13 killed, 10 were based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County and several were originally from California. Read more about them.
The rest of the news
Caldor fire: Smoke is overwhelming Lake Tahoe and confounding the thousands of newcomers who fled there in recent months to escape the coronavirus, The Times reports. Plus, there’s new research on the effects that wildfire smoke and ash have on your skin. (It’s not pretty.)
Covid-19 in schools: An unvaccinated, unmasked teacher in Marin County infected 12 of the 24 students in her elementary school classroom with the coronavirus, revealing how easily the virus can spread inside schools when people don’t wear masks.
Doctors spreading misinformation: There’s a growing call to discipline physicians disseminating incorrect information about the coronavirus and the vaccines. Earlier this year, a San Francisco doctor who falsely claimed that 5G technology caused the pandemic surrendered his license.
Those California commutes: The number of so-called supercommuters, people who travel 90 minutes or more in each direction to work, has increased by 45 percent over the past decade. Five of the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of supercommuters nationwide were in California, with Stockton at the top of the list.
If California goes red: With Democrats holding supermajorities in both houses of the State Legislature, any Republican who may beat Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election would be parachuting into politically hostile territory. Newsom’s successor could find that winning the race proves easier than governing a state that’s become the cornerstone of America’s liberal agenda, Politico reports.
Drug overdoses: California wants to become the first state to pay people with addictions to stay sober, a program that the federal government has already shown to be effective for military veterans, reports NPR.
Water rights: A lucky few California farmers are immune to emergency water cuts under the state’s complicated water rights system, which some experts say is ripe for reform as extreme drought magnifies the inequities within it, reports The Los Angeles Times.
Mountain lion: A 65-pound mountain lion seriously injured a boy in his front yard in Calabasas last week. The lion was shot and killed by a wildlife officer on Saturday, NBC Los Angeles reports.
Vaccine protest: Several hundred people gathered near Santa Monica’s pier on Sunday to push back against proposed Covid-19 vaccination mandates, reports The Los Angeles Times.
Heat and poor air quality: Fresno residents are urged to avoid or limit their time outdoors over the next few days because of triple-digit temperatures and poor air quality from wildfires burning nearby, reports The Fresno Bee.
Cantaloupe country: Mendota is a small town in the Central Valley that advertises itself as the “Cantaloupe Center of the World.” But the melons are disappearing as farmers let portions of their melon fields lie fallow amid the drought or abandon fields where they’ve already been planted because there’s not enough water for the fruit to survive, The Washington Post reports.
A hometown under attack: A Times reporter returned to the place she grew up, a valley in Plumas County that has been hit hard by the Dixie fire. “The rodeo campgrounds have been covered with the tents of National Guard troops, and the fairgrounds have become the base camp for hundreds of firefighters,” she writes.
Rural California battered by virus: Mortuaries and hospitals are filled beyond capacity in rural, northern parts of the state, where inoculation rates are low, The Los Angeles Times reports.
What we’re eating
In her latest newsletter, The Times’s California restaurant critic, Tejal Rao, offers three zucchini recipes that celebrate the summer vegetable’s versatility.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s California travel tip comes from Joe Vela, who recommends Año Nuevo State Park, one of the nation’s largest breeding grounds for northern elephant seals.
The park in San Mateo County is allowing visitors to take self-guided walks to view the seals between Friday and Monday. A free permit is required to visit the preserve.
Your recall questions answered
How do I check to see if I’m registered to vote?
You can check whether you’re registered to vote here. If you’re not registered within 14 days of an election, in California, you can also register the day of the vote. (So, in this case, on Sept. 14.) You can learn more about same-day voter registration here.
Read answers to more of your frequently asked questions about the California recall election here.
Tell us what else you want to know about the recall. Email your questions to CAtoday@nytimes.com.
And before you go, some good news
For years, the Dumbarton Quarry in Fremont was a giant hole in the ground that had once supplied the rocks used to build Bay Area roads and bridges in the 1950s.
But on Friday, the site along the San Francisco Bay reopened as a campground, one of the largest new campsites in California in decades.
Visit the East Bay Regional Park District site for more details.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Ending with black, blue or straw (5 letters).
Briana Scalia and Miles McKinley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.