What “heat dome”? Thank God for June gloom in L.A.

Good morning; it is Wednesday, June 5. I’m Paul Thornton, and here’s what we’ve been doing in Opinion recently.

A dreaded “heat dome” has formed over the western U.S., pushing daytime temperatures in much of California dangerously above normal for early June. Unfortunately, the next several days of extreme heat are only a preview of what’s to come in the years and decades ahead, as climate change intensifies everything from droughts to deluges to, yes, heat waves.

The consequences for humanity will be grim: Under a “business as usual” scenario, where greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current level, 53 million Americans in disadvantaged communities will be subject to dangerous heat by 2050, according to a report by the ICF Climate Center. This long-term threat of higher temperatures and the arrival of the first seasonal heat wave prompted The Times’ editorial board to demand more action from Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders to protect vulnerable Californians from extreme heat.

That said, readers in most of Southern California might wonder, “What heat?” As I write a few miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, the midday sun has finally reappeared after another morning of “June gloom,” what I consider to be the only truly distinguishable season in coastal Southern California. The pattern since early May has gone like this: Low clouds persist overnight and throughout the morning, sunshine makes an appearance in the afternoon (if at all), and the temperature rarely tops 75 degrees. Even with a heat dome nudging against us, we’ll hit around 80 this week.

This is why I love June gloom (and “May gray”): It’s L.A.’s natural air conditioner, a seasonal reprieve from the extreme heat that’s coming for us too. Low clouds are blandly normal for us this time of year — and in an era of extremes, normal and bland feel awfully nice.

Why we get June gloom in Southern California has been thoroughly explained elsewhere, but in a single sentence: The air and land heat more quickly as summer approaches than the chilly waters off our coast, causing low-lying clouds to form most persistently at the coast, but also often miles inland. You can see this phenomenon dramatically illustrated in a satellite photo from Tuesday showing nearly all of the state basking in oppressive sunshine, except for the sliver of coastal Southern California where about half the state’s population lives. The clouds end abruptly at the Transverse Ranges, the high mountains that roughly demarcate inland deserts from the coastal basins and valleys.

Just behind that wall, Bakersfield wilts in 108-degree heat; on top of it, at 6,800 feet in elevation, Big Bear City will hit the mid-80s this week. But cloudy downtown Los Angeles will hover around 80 for the next several days. the forecastable future.

And yet, the National Weather Service projects that Southern California is more likely to have a warmer-than-average summer than a cooler one, so the heat is coming. Unfortunately, climate change means the marine layer that gives us May gray and June gloom will likely burn off for good in the future, depriving us of the natural air conditioner that makes summer in L.A. a little more tolerable.

As the saying goes, hot as it might be now, climate change means this could be the coldest summer of the rest of your life. Those who complain about gloomy skies now might one day regale their grandchildren with tales of drizzle in June and playing outside all day. I cherish what we have right now — the perfect confluence of conditions that produce L.A.’s only discernible season — and embrace June gloom before it’s gone.

I live in Northern California. Why do I have to travel hundreds of miles to take the SAT? Some 96% of four-year colleges still consider SAT and ACT scores in their admissions decisions but a shortage of testing sites in California has left students, such as Sebastian Gillmore, traveling long distances just to take the exam. Gillmore writes: “Having parents with the financial means and the flexibility in their work schedules to get me to a testing site far from home is an advantage many others don’t have. The lack of testing sites in California is not just an inconvenience, it’s an equity issue.” A shout-out to Los Angeles Unified School District, which offers the SAT at all traditional high schools during the school day for free.

Californians don’t have to accept skyrocketing electric bills. Here’s how to fight back. California households have seen their electricity rates nearly double in the last decade, which threatens to undermine public support to phase out fossil fuels and electrify cars and appliances. The Times’ editorial board offers lawmakers four ideas to help curb cost hikes. “It’s time to start discussing them in earnest, before the affordability crisis turns into a ratepayer revolt.”

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The Supreme Court’s all-important Jan. 6 decisions will be tainted. Two of the justices’ spouses — the flag-loving Martha-Ann Alito and “Stop the Steal” foot soldier Ginni Thomas — have demonstrated their pro-Trump bias in ways that could not, and surely did not, go unnoticed by their husbands, writes columnist Jackie Calmes. “When the court soon rules on the Jan. 6 cases, its decisions will be historic not only for the substance but for the fact that two such conflicted justices took part. Shame on them.”

Mexico’s election of Claudia Sheinbaum is historic. But should we be celebrating it? Sheinbaum is the political protege of outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has weakened Mexico’s democratic institutions and raided pension funds to increase payments to the elderly (and therefore boost his popularity) at the expense of younger workers. “Mexico’s populists are, in short, no friends to its people,” writes Kristina Foltz. “Sheinbaum’s election means we’re still waiting for the arrival of Mexico’s democratic spring.”

More from this week in Opinion

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