Fall is already here, but autumn weather will arrive a little late in the Mother Lode beginning today.
A recent heat wave that saw multiple days in the 90s and even the low 100s is expected to end today with more seasonable weather, and forecasts are calling for highs to be in the 70s by the weekend.
The worst of the heat hit Tuesday, when the thermometer reached 100 in Angels Camp, 102 in Copperopolis and 96 in Sonora.
Wednesday was still warm and most of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties reached the mid- to upper 90s, capping a stretch of warm weather that reached back to early last week, according to temperature data gathered by The Union Democrat.
Craig Shoemaker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said the heat wave was caused by a persistent ridge of high pressure over the area that kept temperatures warm both aloft and at the surface.
The pressure kept the cooler, offshore airflow from penetrating inland and kept temperatures above normal, baking much of California over the past week.
“This pattern is breaking down as we speak,” Shoemaker said Wednesday.
The National Weather Service’s seven-day forecast calls for a high of 85 today in Sonora and 89 in Angels camp. The same forecast projects highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s in the area on Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ll begin to see more of our typical weather that we usually see this year,” Shoemaker said.
But the recent heat spell was good news for one of the area’s biggest cash crops. Scott Oneto, a farm adviser with the UC Cooperative Extension, said there is often a “mad rush” this time of year for grape growers to harvest some late wine varieties before the cool, rainy weather starts in the late fall.
Weather like the last week probably means local vineyards will see some of those grapes ripen faster. Wine grapes are regularly the highest earning plant crop in Calaveras County.
“It speeds things up, getting those later varieties harvestable,” Oneto said.