Reconstructing Climate and Weather Extremes of California

Authors: Lilian Hutchens*, University of South Carolina, Elaina Reck*, University of South Carolina, Cary J Mock, University of South Carolina
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Physical Geography, Paleoenvironmental Change
Keywords: Historical climatology, Extreme weather, California
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This study describes some examples on analyzing archival original primary weather data for California. We focus on two main examples: 1) the Long Beach Tropical Storm of 1939, and 2) mid-late 19th century central California. Historical data include personal diaries, newspapers, ship logbooks, and systematic instrumental records. All the data were digitized and carefully assessed concerning data quality. We also applied a content analysis procedure on verbal data to reveal aspects such as storm intensity. Results on the 1939 Long Beach Tropical Storm, which include detailed weather data from over 22 US Navy logbooks, suggest a peak wind of 60 knots offshore Los Angeles and remaining just below hurricane strength. Hurricane force winds over Los Angeles, however, were evident, along with daily record rainfall amounts breaking a record heat wave. Results on central California examples focused on several long diaries, and rain day counts statistically reveal the severe wet winters of 1861-1862 and 1867-1868, as well as some drought years like 1863-1864. We also reveal a few examples on mapping the different historical data types together, which provides a spatial baseline procedure for analyzing other past historical weather extremes.

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