By Adam Tarr
When people think of California, they think of warm weather, sunshine, and beaches, among other words that characterize California as a hot place. Although this can be the case in the months of October and November, local temperatures have regularly reached under 50ºF, even reaching below 40 at points, in the mornings. In addition, Walnut Creek weather at times can seem out of the ordinary due to its location and the geographical features surrounding it. With that being said, here are some explanations of the weather phenomenon affecting Walnut Creek and recent cold weather, with some of the effects on Las Lomas being highlighted.
First off, there is no question that the Inner East Bay areas can have much different weather than its counterparts near the water, such as Berkeley or San Francisco. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the average high daily temperature in San Francisco during September is 74ºF, with a low of 58ºF. In contrast, Walnut Creek averages a high of 85ºF and a low of 64ºF during the month of September. San Francisco’s location near the water means that when the surface water of the Pacific close to the coast is colder, the air also cools, thus resulting in lower temperatures. This phenomenon has less of an effect on Walnut Creek due to its location inland, as the presence of the Berkeley Hills separating it from the coast blocks the cool ocean air, making it hotter during the summer months.
Additionally, Walnut Creek can experience larger fluctuations in weather during the day in comparison to areas near the water due to heat capacity. The basic concept is that things with a high heat capacity take in and give off energy slower, meaning that their temperature is less likely to change quickly. Water has a much higher heat capacity than typical land areas, so as a result, the temperature around San Francisco will have a lower range throughout the day in comparison to Walnut Creek.
“[The] ground can heat up very quickly and cool off very quickly. But the water has a high specific heat…the water out in front of San Francisco is [mostly] between 53 and 58 degrees, regardless of what time of the year it is…[so] the temperature [of San Francisco] just doesn’t change that much,” said Las Lomas science teacher John Morse.
In the later fall and winter seasons, temperature differences are less apparent. Both the inner Bay Areas like Walnut Creek and the areas near the water experience temperatures that are in close proximity. For example, both Walnut Creek and San Francisco experience an average high temperature of 64ºF during November with lows of 49ºF and 51ºF respectively.
Recently, as it has already reached the months of November and December, as one would expect, the temperatures have decreased. From the week of November 6 to November 12, the temperature reached a low of under 50ºF six out of seven days, with four of the days experiencing a low under 45ºF.
Although the temperature changes have seemed drastic, even atypical for California, Morse said that it is nothing out of the ordinary. “It only seems cold…it’s been this up and down sort of cycle sort of thing and it’s been that way for years.”
Regardless of the cause or perception of the daily temperatures lowering, the colder weather as well as the phenomenon of temperature fluctuations during the day has had impacts on students at Las Lomas. These impacts include issues like how students dress for school and changing what they do if they arrive early.
One such student who is typically at school early is junior Alex Shewmaker-Herrera. “Because it’s so cold, [I’ve been] going into the library in the mornings when I show up [early]. It wasn’t something I normally used to do,” he said.
The Las Lomas Library, in fact, has become a primary place for students like Shewmaker-Herrera to escape extreme temperatures throughout the day. Joy Kim, the Las Lomas librarian said, “We’re getting a lot more people coming in the mornings. Even more so because I think it is coldest in the mornings.”
With many changes to the library this year like the addition of music, it has become an attractive place to hang out, whether it is too hot or too cold.
Inside and outside of the library, varied temperatures have also sparked the rise of questions, such as: Should the school add additional indoor places where students can seek refuge as temperatures drop or get too high?
“I personally think that there should be more open public spaces… I don’t know where you guys go in the mornings, if not the library,” added Kim.
Overall, what’s clear is that with the onset of winter approaching, the temperatures have gotten colder and may continue to do so over the next few months. Alongside Walnut Creek’s ability to experience temperature fluctuations, the general trend of it being colder will continue to impact students, potentially sparking the need for individual action, like bringing a heavier jacket every day or school-wide action like adding a new indoor place for students to spend time.