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Yuma weather's a mixed blessing
Death Valley, Calif. - 102
Yuma, Ariz. - 95
Blythe, Calif. - 95
Phoenix, Ariz. - 95
Laredo, Texas - 89
Orlando, Fla. - 83
While Yuma holds the Guinness World Record for being the sunniest place on Earth with an average of 350 sunny days a year, it is not the hottest city, not even within the boundaries of the United States.
While 90 percent of the days in Yuma have been sunny over the past 42 years, according to the National Climate Data Center, places like Death Valley, Calif., have higher average high temperatures.
Yuma is still within the top warmest areas, though, said Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Ken Clark. Extreme southwestern California, much of the lower Colorado River area and southwestern Arizona are pretty equal, relatively speaking, to areas along the southern part of Texas and the southern two-thirds of the peninsula of Florida, he said.
From June through August, Clark said, Death Valley has an average high temperature of 102 degrees, while places like Yuma, Blythe and Phoenix come in at an average 95 degrees during that same period. He said that is to be expected, however, as Death Valley is below sea level.
While the average high is the same for Yuma and Phoenix, Clark said Yuma is hotter when you look over a long period of time. He added, however, that is becoming less and less true because of the urban heat element effect and the size that Phoenix has become.
The average high temperature for Laredo, Texas, is 89 degrees, and Orlando, Fla., is 83 degrees. But, he said, in those areas you're also dealing with more humidity.
While some people argue that Yuma also suffers heavy humidity during monsoon season months, Clark says Yuma's humidity is not comparable to other areas around the United States.
Humidity in Yuma lasts for a few months, maybe from late June through the first of September at the longest, he said, while in Texas and Florida, humid months begin in mid-May and last through early October.
In Yuma, the humidity is caused by surges of tropical winds coming up from the southeast from the Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf of California. Clark explained Yuma is one the driest areas in the nation, along with areas in the lower Colorado River Valley up through Death Valley, receiving five inches of rain or less per year.
Gunnery Sgt. Lenny Vasquez, equal opportunity adviser at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, said he moved to Yuma in January 2008 and thought the weather was pleasant. But when the summer rolled around, it was quite a shock.
Despite being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said those desert areas did not get as hot as Yuma in his experience.
Being from Miami, Fla., and living in places like North and South Carolina as well as Georgia, he was used to humidity, but not like he encountered in Yuma.
He said if he had to choose between living in Florida's humidity versus Yuma's humidity during the monsoon months in August and September — where temperatures can also hit above 120 degrees — he'd pick Florida.
“It's just brutal,” he said. “In Florida, you have the humidity that's sticky hot and whatnot ... but if I had to choose honestly, I'd pick Florida ... Other than that, the town, the town people here, I really enjoy it, my family and I really like it. I noticed after spending several summers here, you can get through June and July, (but) August is brutal, September is brutal. But I know that come late October, things start getting nicer.”
Yuma Community Food Bank president and CEO Mike Ivers said he expected the weather to be hot in Yuma when moving to the area in December 2011 from his hometown of Chicago.
As the cooler winter weather began to fade away, however, he said that the heat didn't affect him as much as he thought it would.
“Heat to me is not an issue. It's a lot easier to me to get cool if it's hot outside than it is to get warm when it's cold outside.”
Ivers said sunny weather has also made a huge difference in his attitude.
“I went home at Christmas to visit my mother, and the sun didn't shine once. I don't know if people really realize what a huge treat it is, it's a huge blessing to have the sun shining every day.”
The nice weather in Yuma, Ivers added, is also conducive to outdoor activities he was not able to take part in year-round in Chicago, like jogging.
As last summer was his first in the Yuma area — or in any desert area, for that matter — Ivers noted that he couldn't remember a weekend where he thought it was too hot and he had to get out of town. If he does feel that way in the future, though, San Diego is only a few hours away.
“In Chicago, there's nowhere you can drive in that short distance to get warm again when it's cold.”
In regards to humidity, he noted that the area is incomparable to the four summers he spent living in New Orleans or the year he spent in Lake Charles, La.
“It's not humid here. It's not a problem at all, certainly nothing that I would see as a deterrent.”
All in all, Ivers said, he really just loves everything about Yuma.
“I think Yuma is one of the best-kept secrets in the United States. I don't know if I like (the newspaper) telling that secret,” he concluded with a laugh.