Has Santa Cruz been colder than usual this winter?

A rainy day in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

If it’s feeling cold — even more so than usual recently — it’s not your imagination. Data stretching back to the middle of the fall shows that temperatures have been consistently between 2 and 6 degrees lower than normal for this time of the year. Throw in the wet weather of recent weeks, and that chilly bite can feel downright frigid.

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Upon leaving your home, you might find yourself shivering more these days.

Perhaps you have gradually begun wearing more layers, scraping ice off of your windshield, or turning up the heat.

It turns out it’s not just your imagination. Torrential downpours are not the only weather anomaly Santa Cruz County residents have experienced recently. The area has been about 2 degrees colder than normal for this time of the year, National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Matt Mehle told Lookout on Monday.

Two degrees might seem insignificant, but there’s another reason why you’ve felt that apparently modest temperature dip in your bones. “It’s been so damp recently, and the perception is that when it’s damp, you feel colder, and people notice it more,” said Mehle.

The region has been under the influence of high-pressure systems, which usually cause clearer skies along with cooler air, said NWS meteorologist Sarah McCorkle. Clouds can work to reintroduce heat toward the Earth’s surface. When skies are clear, the heat can escape into the atmosphere with nothing to stop it. If you’ve noticed particularly chilly days when the sky is bright blue, this is exactly why.

temperature map
(Via High Plains Regional Climate Center)

It isn’t just the most recent handful of weeks, either. Since Oct. 1, temperatures have been about 2 degrees colder than usual, and even more so in the past week — between 3 and 6 degrees colder.

Mehle added that historical data for temperature differences are difficult to track down, because the NWS currently does not have an official climate site in Santa Cruz — the same reason why it is difficult to determine just how much rain fell in various parts of the county during January’s storm siege. It will be easier to get more specific data pertaining to Santa Cruz County once its new climate station site is established.

Mehle said that process takes some time to complete, because the station needs to be placed in a suitable location.

“It has to be as climatologically close to the site that we’re removing as possible. We can’t just pick it up and shove it somewhere else in Santa Cruz,” he said. “Living in Santa Cruz, you know that temperature can vary greatly in just a short distance. So we don’t want to throw off the data.”

While the NWS might not have full temperature data for the county, the High Plains Regional Climate Center has a good amount of temperature data for the better part of the past year. Use the site and browse its climate maps here.

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