Despite all the holiday songs about sun-baked beaches and snowless Christmas celebrations, December in California actually tends to be cool and damp.

Usually.

December 2023 was a major exception — the toastiest the state has experienced since 1958, and the fourth warmest since record-keeping began in 1895, according to data from the Western Regional Climate Center. Temperatures were, on average, 4.2 degrees higher than normal.

For most of the year, California was largely spared the record-shattering heat that so much of the world experienced; the state actually had one of its mildest summers.

Even so, there were plenty of unseasonably warm December days, when temperatures were in the 60s and 70s in the inland valleys, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at U.C.L.A.

“In some places in the Sierra foothills, it appears this was the warmest December on record,” Swain said. “In other parts of California, it was certainly in the top three.”

Fresno logged its warmest December on record, with an average high of 63 degrees, compared with a normal of 55 degrees, according to weather station data. Monthly records were also broken in Long Beach and Redding, as well as in communities in the Sierra foothills like Sonora, Groveland and Lemon Cove.

California’s experience was part of a much larger trend across the country. Minneapolis had a record-breaking warm, snowless Christmas, logging its warmest December, as did Fargo, N.D.; Las Vegas; Seattle and Milwaukee.

The warm temperatures in California have meant a diminished snowpack, because precipitation has been more likely to fall as rain rather than snow. As of Jan. 8, the snowpack was 35 percent of what it typically is for that date — a huge change from last January’s immense snowpack, which was built up by a series of storms.

Though the state’s reservoirs are still in good shape now, because of California’s wildly wet 2023, the snowpack will be an essential factor in how they fare in the seasons to come. Snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada typically provides about 30 percent of the state’s water supply, filling rivers and reservoirs and propelling hydropower systems that provide the region’s electricity.

Experts say that California typically receives half of its annual precipitation from Jan. 1 to March 31, according to Michael Anderson, a state climatologist. But much of that still may fall as rain this year because of the warmer temperatures.

The current El Niño weather pattern is increasing the chances of wetter-than-average conditions for California, Swain said. But he added: “There’s also much more than a tilt in the odds — in fact, a virtual certainty — of warmer-than-average conditions for this winter on the whole. That certainly seems to be bearing out.”



What are you looking forward to in 2024? Celebrating milestone birthdays, traveling to new places, picking up a new hobby?

Tell us your hopes for the new year at CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your full name and the city in which you live.


Barber shops in Sacramento are offering free therapy services to Black men under a new program intended to widen access to mental health support and remove its stigma, CapRadio reports.

The program, called “Cut to the Chase,” is hosted by two barber shops in Sacramento and run in partnership with the Greater Sacramento Urban League, a local nonprofit.

Under the initiative, licensed therapists host group sessions at the barber shops every few weeks. The idea, organizers and participants say, is to make mental health support more accessible to Black men by hosting it in a communal space that feels safe.

That model has been a success so far, drawing participants of all ages, including a 2-year-old and a man in his 80s.

“What we try to do is help people realize that they’re going through a therapeutic process, and they don’t even realize they are,” Ronnie L. Cobb of the Greater Sacramento Urban League told the news outlet. “One of our biggest initiatives is to soft-serve what therapy is and remove the taboo.”


Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *