This winter 2023 multiple rounds of intense snowfall coupled with strong winds hit parts of southern California. According to, a website that tracks outages in real-time, this blizzard has torn down power lines, temporarily leaving thousands of Californian residents without electricity. For snowbound drivers, such as those on Route 154 (Santa Barbara), traffic has been slowed or stopped completely. The week’s storm also caused some schools to close.

The National Weather Service of San Diego issued a blizzard warning via Twitter, stating that the storm was already in effect in the San Bernardino County Mountains. The tweet goes on to mention that travel would likely be “very difficult to impossible” through Saturday morning. In a separate series of tweets, San Diego’s division of the National Weather Service described this week’s weather patterns as “showery”, and added that flooding was a likelihood as well. Indeed, heavy rain fell Friday afternoon (2/24/2023) in Los Angeles and flooding shut down multiple roadways, according to CNN.

Does It Snow In California

Though winter storms are not unusual, freezing temperatures and snowfall are typically quite rare in California due to its Mediterranean climate. This type of climate is generally characterized by high precipitation rates in winter, followed by hot, dry summers. During the winter months, California’s temperatures are relatively warm, commonly ranging somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the time of day, altitude, and exact location.

So what’s special about this winter of 2023? Why is a state that is mostly warm year-round experiencing intense cold and icy precipitation? Some sources suggest that this storm is related to warming in the Arctic. As discussed previously, the Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the globe, which could be causing wind currents in the northern hemisphere to destabilize and behave more unpredictably.

The swirling air current that encircles the Arctic is known as the stratospheric polar vortex; it contains low pressure and cold air that normally remains in its higher latitude position above the North Pole. The polar vortex is kept in place by a separate, powerful current of upper-level winds known as the polar jet stream. As the Arctic continues to warm, the difference between north-south temperatures decreases and causes zonal winds in the jet stream to dip down into lower latitudes, thereby giving Arctic winds more leeway. In other words, global warming is gradually causing the polar stream band of wind to sway off course, which allows cold polar air to flow south into mid-latitude areas that are normally warmer.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

The blizzard appears to have migrated down into California from the northern hemisphere, specifically Canada. It is possible then, that this week’s unusually cold weather could be a symptom of variation within the polar vortex. Climate change is the root cause for the polar jet stream affecting mid-latitude winter weather, as a warming planet means accelerated warming in the Arctic. Global warming could also be the culprit behind the United States’ winter storms this 2023. This is far from an established fact, but rather circulating conjecture.

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