What Makes Hurricanes a Rare Experience in California

By Herb Kimble.

California seems like the land of sunshine and perfect weather, and it’s quite purposefully marketed that way. The region doesn’t often see any serious storm activity, and that’s because the conditions for a tropical storm, like a hurricane, don’t exist in California.

The waters off the California coast play a very big role in this phenomenon, helping to keep the area’s weather relatively mild. Rainfall is common, as is snow in high elevations, but the waters of the Pacific near the California coast are cold all year long.

What changes things, and brings the potential for more erratic weather patterns, is the El Nino system. The system comes with warm ocean water and high pressure.

Under normal circumstances, a phenomenon known as “upwelling” occurs, where strong winds drive surface waters to the right of the wind flow. The resulting current dredges cooler waters from below, and can produce fog frequently in the process.

Another reason for the phenomenal weather? California is simply not in the path of any particular hurricane system. Hurricanes tend to move westward as they go north, which puts them well off the California coast by the time they arrive in the area. Those that are somehow able to travel along the coast of Baja California quickly dissipate once the winds bring California’s cooler waters to the surface. Rather than hurricane conditions, parts of California instead experience torrential rainfall. In 1939, Long Beach experienced a cyclone firsthand that had formerly been a hurricane.

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