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Record high and super dry for January (w/video)

The mercury hit 70 degrees Thursday at Sonoma County’s airport, breaking the previous record of 68 degrees for Jan. 29, set in 2007. Also, normally the wettest month, a mere 0.11 inches of rain has fallen.|

Santa Rosa hit a record high temperature Thursday afternoon, closing the chapter on what could be the second-driest January in history.

Temperatures hit 70 degrees at 2:33 p.m. at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, breaking the previous record of 68 degrees for Jan. 29, set in 2007.

Normally the wettest month of the year, a mere 0.11 of an inch of rain has fallen this month. That barely surpasses the record low of 0.10 of an inch that fell in January 2014, and it marks the third straight arid January since just 1.16 inches fell in 2013.

“We’re trending toward the warm months already,” said Andy Mussolini, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.

Mussolini said that as of Thursday, January had seen 20 days of above- ?normal temperatures. The month usually starts out with highs near ?58 degrees and ends near 61, he said.

The springlike weather offered North Coast residents guilty pleasures, as many took advantage of the unseasonably dry and warm climate, whether it was doing yard work, taking a bike ride or walking the dog.

Wayne Hallman, a retired aerospace engineer who recently moved to Santa Rosa from Southern California, was out riding his bicycle late Thursday afternoon. He said he was hoping to see some winter rain when he moved up here in November, but instead got more of what he’s used to.

“I’ve been enjoying the weather,” he said, with a hint of guilt in his voice, adding that the region needs the rain.

The rain that has fallen this month is just a skosh more than Santa Rosa normally gets in August (0.8 of an inch).

The last reasonably wet January was in 2012, when Santa Rosa recorded ?6.3 inches, and even that was below the 7.05-inch average, which makes January No. 1 for rain.

February ranks third historically with 6.4 inches of precipitation, but there’s no immediate relief on tap when the new month arrives Sunday.

Appearances are deceiving, with the county’s hills and plains coated in green grass that sprouted after December’s abundant rains. A year ago, a bone-dry winter had turned the landscape eerily brown and gray, offending the sensibilities of poets, landscape painters and residents.

“Something’s wrong here,” Damon Doss, a Kenwood health care consultant, said at the time.

Now, he said, the grass is not as deep a green as it should be. “If February is like January, we are going to be in trouble,” he said.

Brian Edwards, an AccuWeather meteorologist, said he sees “no real opportunity for rain” in the region during the first week of February. There are “iffy” prospects for precipitation in the second week of the month, but warmer- and drier-than-average weather is likely to prevail through February and March, he said.

For the rest of this week, a large high-pressure ridge will remain off the coast, shunting storms into Canada while California moves into a fourth year of drought.

Santa Rosa has 19.5 inches of rain for the season that started July 1, thanks largely to the 14.49 inches that fell in December, more than double the average for that month. The city has a long way to go to match the 36.28-inch annual average.

Santa Rosa typically gets ?70 percent of its annual rainfall in four wet months from December through March. From April through June, the balance of the rain year, the city normally gets just 3.66 inches, or 10 percent of its rain-year total.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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