The Most Blistering Heatwave to Ever Hit Orange County Was Suffocating

Written by Samantha Stanich
Published: October 16, 2023
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Orange County lives up to its Southern Californian reputation and continues to have hot summer days at the beach. The hottest month of the year in Orange is August, with an average high of 84°F and a low of 65°F. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature in August 2023 was 74.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Lately, heaves in Orange County seem to be a yearly occurrence!

And even though the county’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and coastal moisture keeps it cooler, there is still concern over the increase in the average temperature. The Earth’s climate is changing because the Earth is warming. People have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 40% since the late 1700s. Other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are also increasing. Orange County has a population of 3,010,232, making it the third-largest county in California which is the largest state in the United States by population. The amount of people in the county and state are all contributing to climate change.

California’s 10 warmest summers, starting with the absolute hottest include:

  • 2021
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2022
  • 2006
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 1961
  • 1996
  • 2020

One of the most recent heatwaves, but not the hottest, in California, was in September 2022 for a record-breaking 10 days of sweltering sun. From Aug. 31 through September 9, 2022, a record-breaking heat wave occurred across California. Temperature records were set in approximately 1,500 locales and excessive heat warnings were issued for much of the state. However, in 2021, during the hottest heatwave on record, Orange County, Anaheim reached 104 degrees on Tuesday, breaking the record of 102 set in 2015. Even inland areas of the county, which normally stay cool, were under a heat advisory during this heatwave.

Top 5 Largest Counties in California

CountyPopulation
Los Angeles9,861,224
San Diego3,276,208
Orange County3,010,232
Riverside2,418,177
San Bernardino2,193,656
Crescent Bay of Laguna Beach, Orange County, California USA

Today, climate change and urban heat are together fueling different heat waves in California.

©Juancat/Shutterstock.com

California is so long that it has a variety of climates. It varies from hot desert to alpine tundra depending on latitude, elevation, and proximity to the Pacific Coast.

Here are the average temperatures during Orange County’s summer months.

MonthHighLow
June78℉60℉
July82℉63℉
August84℉64℉

Where Is Orange County On A Map?

Orange County contains six cities along the Pacific Coast. They are Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente. The county is also included in the Los Angeles–Long Beach–Anaheim Metropolitan Statistical Area and has 34 incorporated cities.

Heatwaves of 2021, 2022, and 2023 in Orange County

Orange County saw a rise in temperature over the past decade, particularly in the past three years! The National Weather Service forecast has repeatedly issued excessive heat warnings for the coastal county. These concerning forecasts bring the danger of heat-related illnesses, strains on the power grid, and even the threat of wildfires along with an increased level of smog across Orange County.

Impact Of Heatwaves in Orange County on Public Health

High temperatures can have severe impacts on people, particularly during heatwaves. Extreme heat poses significant health risks and can lead to heat-related illnesses. These can exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions, and, in the worst cases, result in fatalities. Heatwaves in Orange County make no exception!

Scientists are continuously studying the ever-changing weather, and putting the blame of the higher temperature on human-caused climate change. This is caused by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas and gets an extra push from the natural El Nino, a temporary warming of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide.

During heatwaves, the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, significantly increases. Heat exhaustion is characterized by symptoms such as heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and rapid heartbeat. If not treated promptly, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s internal temperature reaches dangerous levels, typically above 104˚F (40˚C).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in September 2022, there was a record-breaking 10-day heat wave in California. During this heatwave, there was a 5% increase in deaths – 395 more than expected. Orange County,

Orange County lives up to its Southern Californian reputation and continues to have hot summer days at the beach. The hottest month of the year in Orange is August, with an average high of 84°F and a low of 65°F. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature in August 2023 was 74.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Lately, heaves in Orange County seem to be a yearly occurrence!

And even though the county’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and coastal moisture keeps it cooler, there is still concern over the increase in the average temperature. The Earth’s climate is changing because the Earth is warming. People have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 40% since the late 1700s. Other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are also increasing. Orange County has a population of 3,010,232, making it the third-largest county in California which is the largest state in the United States by population. The amount of people in the county and state are all contributing to climate change.

California’s 10 warmest summers, starting with the absolute hottest include:

  • 2021
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2022
  • 2006
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 1961
  • 1996
  • 2020

One of the most recent heatwaves, but not the hottest, in California, was in September 2022 for a record-breaking 10 days of sweltering sun. From Aug. 31 through September 9, 2022, a record-breaking heat wave occurred across California. Temperature records were set in approximately 1,500 locales and excessive heat warnings were issued for much of the state. However, in 2021, during the hottest heatwave on record, Orange County, Anaheim reached 104 degrees on Tuesday, breaking the record of 102 set in 2015. Even inland areas of the county, which normally stay cool, were under a heat advisory during this heatwave.

Top 5 Largest Counties in California

CountyPopulation
Los Angeles9,861,224
San Diego3,276,208
Orange County3,010,232
Riverside2,418,177
San Bernardino2,193,656
Crescent Bay of Laguna Beach, Orange County, California USA

Today, climate change and urban heat are together fueling different heat waves in California.

©Juancat/Shutterstock.com

California is so long that it has a variety of climates. It varies from hot desert to alpine tundra depending on latitude, elevation, and proximity to the Pacific Coast.

Here are the average temperatures during Orange County’s summer months.

MonthHighLow
June78℉60℉
July82℉63℉
August84℉64℉

Where Is Orange County On A Map?

Orange County contains six cities along the Pacific Coast. They are Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente. The county is also included in the Los Angeles–Long Beach–Anaheim Metropolitan Statistical Area and has 34 incorporated cities.

Heatwaves of 2021, 2022, and 2023 in Orange County

Orange County saw a rise in temperature over the past decade, particularly in the past three years! The National Weather Service forecast has repeatedly issued excessive heat warnings for the coastal county. These concerning forecasts bring the danger of heat-related illnesses, strains on the power grid, and even the threat of wildfires along with an increased level of smog across Orange County.

In fact, 2023 is the second hottest year on record, behind 2016. All of the heatwaves have seen temperatures in triple digits in the valleys and some even in the mountain regions.

Impact Of Heatwaves in Orange County on Public Health

High temperatures can have severe impacts on people, particularly during heatwaves. Extreme heat poses significant health risks and can lead to heat-related illnesses. These can exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions, and, in the worst cases, result in fatalities. Heatwaves in Orange County make no exception!

Scientists are continuously studying the ever-changing weather, and putting the blame of the higher temperature on human-caused climate change. The burning of coal, oil, and natural gas causes climate change. It also gets an extra push from the natural El Nino, a temporary warming of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide.

During heatwaves, the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, significantly increases. Symptoms such as heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and rapid heartbeat characterize heat exhaustion. If not treated promptly, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s internal temperature reaches dangerous levels, typically above 104˚F (40˚C).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in September 2022, there was a record-breaking 10-day heat wave in California. During this heatwave, there was a 5% increase in deaths – 395 more than expected. Orange County and the South Coast region had an increase in mortality during this heatwave due to low air conditioning saturation.

Increase of Wildfires Due to Heatwaves

Yorba Linda Blue Ridge Fire

Wildfires typically start in forested areas, and can start in many ways. All wildfires require an ignition source, fuel, and oxygen

©MattGush/iStock via Getty Images

Wildfires are uncontrolled and unwanted fires, but high temperatures and dry conditions alone do not trigger them. This combination just sets the stage for wildfires to start more easily when an ignition source is present. However, when the weather is hot and dry like it can get in Orange County, the area becomes vulnerable to wildfires.

Common natural ignition sources are lightning and lava. However, humans cause most wildfires. In fact, 85% of wildfires over the past two decades were started by people, most accidentally. Accidents such as unextinguished campfires, target shooting, or setting off smoke bombs in hot and dry environments, such as during heatwaves, are breeding grounds for wildfires.

In 2022, Orange County experienced a brush fire that took away at least 20 homes. Winds up to 30 mph fueled the fire in addition to dry conditions from an ongoing severe drought as well as a heatwave in the entire region, according to the latest US Drought Monitor.

Flash Floods

Flash floods are also common occurrences after heatwaves. If heavy rain follows a very dry and hot period, the ground and soil are baked and hard. This means that the water isn’t soaked up easily so it runs straight off the surface.

Coping with the Heat

During the heatwaves, residents of Orange County employ various strategies to cope with the extreme temperatures. Air conditioning becomes a lifeline for many, providing a crucial respite from the sweltering heat. Seeking shade and avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day are also common practices to reduce exposure to the sun’s intense rays.

Staying hydrated is paramount. Excessive heat can lead to rapid fluid loss through sweating which can result in heat stroke. Residents are always encouraged to drink plenty of water. It is recommended to drink two to four glasses of water per hour during times of extreme heat. Also, people are asked to avoid beverages that can cause dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

Relief Efforts and Public Services

Power outages are also common during heatwaves. However, many public buildings have generators, and are considered “cooling places.” Community buildings such as libraries, community centers, senior centers, shopping centers, and county parks have spaces that are air-conditioned and open to the public.

Emergency services and response teams stay on high alert during heatwaves in order to stay prepared to handle an increase in heat-related medical emergencies. Paramedics and healthcare providers training to recognize and treat heat-related illnesses quickly and correctly.

Also, public awareness campaigns play a crucial role in informing residents about the dangers of heatwaves. ReadyOC is Orange County’s preparedness resource. It shares valuable information on dealing with Extreme Heat.

Power Outages

Oppressively high temperatures can be the cause of electrical shortages as residents crank up the air conditioning. The California Independent System Operator manages the state’s power grid and gives a few pointers to help keep the power on:

  • setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher;
  • avoiding use of major appliances;
  • turning off unnecessary lights; and
  • avoid charging electric vehicles.

Residents are also advised to pre-cool their homes as much as possible by closing blinds and drapes to keep the interiors cool.

Environmental Impact

Western Coyote (Canis latrans) in northern California

Large animals such as coyotes can adapt to high heat.

©Steve Byland/Shutterstock.com

Extreme heat is also dangerous to wildlife. Large animals like bears, coyotes, and mountain lions are most adaptable to heat. However, smaller animals like fish, birds, and amphibians can’t regulate their temperature and are more reliant on water. However, though large animals may fare better, they also may become more stressed and venture into unsafe territory in search of water and food.

Agriculture and Crops

The scorching temperatures and lack of sufficient rainfall during the heatwave caused widespread drought conditions in California. In fact, due to the heat and drought, farmers are planting new crops to cope with climate change. However, this is mainly in Northern California. High temperatures are part of Southern California’s makeup, but climate change means that Southern California’s conditions are creeping north up the coast and into the valley.

Preparedness and Response For Heatwaves in Orange County

As Orange County continues to experience extreme heatwaves, it is essential for residents to take proactive steps to better prepare. Preparedness and response efforts are crucial to safeguarding public health, infrastructure, and the well-being of the community during extreme weather events. Here are some key measures residents can take:

Create an Emergency Plan

Developing a comprehensive emergency plan for the household is vital. The plan should include evacuation routes, meeting points, contact information for local authorities, and a list of essential supplies needed during an extreme weather event. Family members must communicate the plan with everyone to ensure no one is left out during the emergency.

There are other measures to take to make sure your home stays cool during a heatwave. Getting “blackout” curtains or blinds to block out direct sunlight is one preemptive step to take. Also, make sure that you have fans to help out the air conditioning so as to not overwork the machine. Lastly, sealing any drafts or gaps helps retain cool air indoors, and even planting shade trees around your home can reduce heat absorption and lower overall temperatures with their shade.

Unhappy African woman touching forehead having hot flashes using electric fan to cool off, overheated black female sitting in front of air cooler at home, surviving heatwave without air conditioning

It is important for residents in Orange County to be aware of safety measures against heatwaves.

©DimaBerlin/Shutterstock.com

Stay Informed

Stay informed about weather forecasts, warnings, and advisories issued by local authorities and the National Weather Service. Weather updates can help residents make informed decisions about safety and preparedness measures. Consider installing weather apps on smartphones and subscribing to emergency alert systems.

Maintain Emergency Supplies

Keep a well-stocked emergency supply kit that includes essentials such as water, non-perishable food, first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio, and necessary medications. Regularly check the kit to ensure everything is up-to-date and replace any expired items.

Stay Hydrated and Cool

During extreme heat events, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, even if not feeling thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration. Seek cool and shaded areas whenever possible, and limit outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day.

Familiarize yourself with cooling centers in the area, especially for those without access to air conditioning at home. Cooling centers offer relief from the heat and provide access to water and medical assistance.

Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses

Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Encourage others to recognize these symptoms and take immediate action by moving to a cooler place, hydrating, and seeking medical attention if necessary.

Support Community Preparedness Efforts

Participate in community preparedness initiatives and engage with local emergency management agencies to learn about disaster response plans and resources available to residents during extreme weather events. Volunteering with local organizations can also strengthen community resilience and support vulnerable populations.

Protect Your Pets

If you think heatwaves are hot in shorts and a tank top, imagine how your four-legged friend feels in their fur coat! Make sure you provide them ample shade and water and don’t exercise them too much during heatwaves. Watch for signs of heatstroke in your pets as well. Some signs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and excessive thirst. To keep your pet cool inside and out, you can use a cooling body wrap, vest, or mat. These products can be soaked in cool water, and are less stressful than a bath for pets.

Conclusion for heatwaves in Orange County

Unfortunately, it seems heatwaves are becoming a more common occurrence. Making sure you and your family are ready for extreme weather is a necessity.  Ensure they have access to cooling and hydration during heatwaves and have a support network in place to check on their well-being regularly. Orange County is known for sunshine, so most residents are prepared for hot days, but it doesn’t hurt to over-prepare!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Juancat/Shutterstock.com


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