Fog rolls over gently rolling hills
A classic California view — fog rising from the Pacific Ocean as seen from Mount Tamalpais. (Getty Images)

Climate Trends in the West, Today and 11,000 Years Ago

What We Think of as the West Coast’s Climate Is ‘Only’ a Few Thousand Years Old

People often say things like Phoenix has always been dry; Seattle has always been wet; and San Francisco has always been foggy. But “always” is a strong word. 

A study from the University of California, Davis, synthesizes climate trends across the Western U.S. during a relatively young period of Earth’s history — the Holocene Era, which stretches from the present day to the past 11,000 years. This look at the really Old West shows that the hallmarks of California’s climate — the foggy coastlines that gave rise to towering redwoods, the ocean upwelling that spawned productive fisheries, the warm summers and mild winters — began around 4,000 years ago.


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