Welcome to the Annual “Primavera Falsa”

by on January 22, 2013 · 12 comments

in California, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, San Diego

big surf day 11-3-10 jg 03-sm

A big surf day in OB. Photo by Jim Grant (11-3-10)

Every year around this time, San Diego and Southern California enjoy a week or two of “unseasonably” warm weather.  Temperatures reach into the 70’s and like this week, even the lower 80’s. Surfers grab their boards and head for the waves in droves. People flock to the beaches in swimsuits and actually go into the ocean.

Winter sweaters and jackets are stashed – at least temporarily -, and the BBQ grills are rolled back out from their winter hibernation. But it’s only for a while.

We call it Primavera Falsa – False Spring – and it happens every January.

A belt of warm water surges north from the Equator and envelops our local waters and air, heating up everything, and for these happy two weeks or so, we’re glad.

But it happens every year. So, it’s NOT “unseasonable” – as the San Diego U-T states. If something akin to this occurs with regularity, it’s regular, it’s seasonal.

It is a false spring, as flowers bloom and trees think it’s Spring time! Insects and birds are a-buzzing once again.

But alas, it only lasts for a short but wonderful time. Then it’s back to the cold and the chill. Back to coats and layers and chilly days.

So, remember when out-of-town friends or tourists exclaim to you, “wow, this is unseasonable weather we’re having, isn’t it!?” – you can stare them straight in the face and say, ‘no, this happens every January, and it’s called the Primavera Falsa!”

So, enjoy it while you can.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric January 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I disagree with the statement “A belt of warm water surges north from the Equator and envelops our local waters and air, heating up everything”

First of all, the water is colder than normal right now and has been throughout the recent warm spell. Second, the warmth is due to the high pressure system that is currently park over SoCal. As the high pressure breaksdown and moves east we will return to more “seasonable” temperatures.



Frank Gormlie January 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Hey Eric thanks for your response. But what accounts for the annual warmth this time of year? It happens every January. How long have you lived in san diego?


Jack January 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

Sorry Frank, I agree with Eric

It is not Our Mother Ocean who brings the warmth, she is pretty danged cold right now. It is the air temperature which warms and that is due to a high pressure phenomenon which happens on a fairly regular basis over SoCal in the middle of winter. Why it happens, I do not know, but it certainly isn’t OMO who plays the leading role.


Frank Gormlie January 24, 2013 at 11:46 am

That’s okay, Jack, you and Eric are both wrong. Do some research, my friend.


Eric January 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm

OK Frank, your turn to do some research to prove your theory.

Water temp stayed relatively constant at about 14deg C over the period 1/11-1/22 which encompasses our cold and hot spell that just passed (cold 1-11-1/15, then hot 1/16-1/22).

See water temp data at:
See air temp data at:

I am standing by my statement that the water temp had nothing to do with the recent warm spell.

To answer your specific questions: I think the warming was related to high pressure not water temp. I have lived in San Diego for 14 years.

I look forward to your rebuttal. Note how I didn’t just say you are wrong (as you did to me), but instead provided data to make my point. I would appreciate the same to back up your hypothesis.



Frank Gormlie January 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Eric, sorry, just wasn’t taking this all too seriously. I know Jack – and he and I are always kidding around on these comments. Didn’t mean to diss you or your opinion. Yes, there is a warming spell – gee, is it over already? but the annual warming spell is what I’m talking about. Not this temporary one due to high pressure.


Guillermo January 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Jack and Eric are correct, the warm weather in January is due to a high pressure over the entire southwest region (SoCal and AZ). The ocean temperatures haven’t changed in the past month, they average mid to high 50’s. Please check either SIO or NOAA for both current and historical water temps.



Frank Gormlie January 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Hey everyone; you are missing the point of the article;we’re not talking about high pressure warming up San Diego and indeed it does; we’re talking about an annual occurrence of warming due to this belt of water coming up from the equator. Okay, answer these: First, does anyone doubt that this usually happens every Jan? Second, if there is no doubters, then what causes it?


obecean January 24, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I’m puzzled here. Does Frank really know Jack?


Eric January 25, 2013 at 10:38 am

Yes, I doubt there is a belt of warm water coming up from the equator every Jan. I have shown the water data. What makes you think there is a belt of warm water moving north and warming the area?

I don’t question that it typically gets warm in the winter a few days or weeks each year. However, I disagree that the timing is restricted to the same period in Jan every year. It could (and does) happen at different times throughout the year (whenever we get the high pressure moving over the area).


Guillermo January 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I don’t believe anyone is questioning that SoCal experiences warm weather most January’s. It’s the reason that everyone is questioning. The basis for your argument appears to be random, why not just say it gets warm every Jan because of planetary alignment.
So far there is zero evidence to base your statement upon, water temps do NOT rise in January. Please review the historical records at SIO (Scripps) or NOAA.
The mid winter high pressure in SoCal and ensuing warm weather can _sometimes_ be attributed to the heat rising from the AZ desert.
better yes, check with a meteorologist.


Dan Shay January 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm

The Farmer’s Almanac has the data you want about the weather history of San Diego. I have not gone through it yet;



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