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California suffered through its hottest July on record, while August has pushed sea-surface temperatures off the San Diego coast to all-time highs.Are these punishing summer heat waves the consequences of global warming or the result of familiar weather patterns?The answer, scientists say, is both. Climate change is amplifying natural variations in the weather. So when California roasts under a stubborn high-pressure system, the thermometer climbs higher than it would in the past.“What we’re seeing now is the atmosphere doing what it has always done. But it’s doing it in a warmer world, so the heat waves occurring today are hotter,” said Park Williams, an associate research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “We can expect that to continue.”

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