Summer doesn't officially begin for five weeks but Bakersfield will get an early feel for it Thursday as the high temperature is expected to exceed 100 degrees -- the first of what experience says will be many triple-digit days in the months ahead.
The Thursday high is expected to hit 101 degrees, just off the record of 103 degrees set in 1927. The average high temperature for May 15 is 83 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Last May had two 100-degree days.
Then the furnace kicked on: six 100-plus days in June, 19 in July, four in August and two more in September.
It is not uncommon to have one or two exceptionally hot days in May, but extreme heat isn't normally extended over several days like in summer months, said Jeff Barlow, an NWS meteorologist in Hanford.
Additionally, when the jet stream retreats north a stable air mass develops allowing for very little air movement. The longer the air stays in place the warmer the weather gets.
"I think what's more of a factor is the drought and the very dry ground," Barlow said. "Wet ground (creates) less (heat). So many fields are in fallow and they're just dirt, not fields. So we are expecting higher temperatures over the forecasted period of the summer."
A total of about 800,000 acres of land are now fallowed in California from the drought, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.
So far in 2014, Bakersfield has seen 1.34 inches of rain. The normal amount to this point is 4.23 inches.
Red flag warnings, which are bans on all burning, were put in place Monday for Kern County and are set to last through 8 p.m. Thursday, said Kern County Fire Department spokesman Brandon Hill.They came after forecasts of high heat and possible winds.
The department will have an extra dispatcher Friday and Saturday to handle the expected higher volume of calls.
Hill cautioned residents to practice fire hazard reduction by removing any dry brush, small branches or wood near their homes. Additionally, machinery such as lawn mowers should not be used in the heat of the day.