Drought continues; Yellowstone fires could become more frequent; 90L set to develop

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:58 PM GMT on July 27, 2011

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Southern Drought Continues

Temperatures continue to soar into triple digits in the Southern Plains this week, and are expected to remain well above average for at least the next month. High air temperatures and low humidity (because of the low soil moisture) will continue to maintain drought conditions in the South unless we see some Gulf-landfalling tropical cyclones—a good remedy for a such an extreme drought.

This year's drought in the South is unprecedented by many definitions. Last year at this time, 0% of the contiguous U.S. was in exceptional drought. Last week, the exceptional drought region covered 11.96%. The area of contiguous U.S. in exceptional drought conditions has never been this high since the Drought Monitor record started in 2000. The highest it had been before June of this year was 7.85% in August of 2002.


Figure 1. Temperature anomaly (difference from average) in degrees Celsius for the period July 1 through July 25 (top) and soil moisture anomaly in millimeters (bottom) on July 25 (from the Climate Prediction Center).

In late June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 213 counties in Texas (84% of the state) as primary natural disaster areas. As I mentioned yesterday, the Texas drought and wildfires are one of the nine billion-dollar disasters of 2011 so far. The National Climatic Data Center estimated that this event had cost up to $3 billion as of June 16. This number is surely rising every day that the South doesn't see rain.

New study concludes Yellowstone wildfires could become more frequent

In a study published this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have concluded that global warming could have a serious impact on the severity and frequency of wildfires in the Yellowstone region (an area where the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming come together). Historically in this region, fewer than 5% of wildfire occurrences account for 95% of the total area burned. But in a global warming scenario, they found that fire activity could become more severe and more frequent, causing the ecosystem to change dramatically.

Using climate conditions and historical fire data from 1972 to 1999, it was possible to link certain environmental thresholds (temperature, humidity, etc) to past wildfire events. Then by employing the output of various climate models, fire frequency can be forecast well into the future. Figure 2 illustrates the result from one of the climate models they used in the study, and the upward trend of fire activity over the next 100 years. In 1988, a particularly hot and dry year, 36% of the park burned. The study uses this year as a baseline to compare future events.


Figure 2. Figure 2B from the manuscript. Observed burn area (blue line) median of predicted area burned (black dotted line), and ranges (light and dark orange) aggregated over the Yellowstone area defined by the study by Westerling et al. (Source).

What was once a low-probability event could become a high-probability event by mid-century. Fires that have only happened every 100 to 300 years in the past could now be occurring every 30 years in the future. The results of this research has implications for sub-alpine forests across the globe. Warming temperatures and decreasing humidity will lead to more wildfires, and will cost billions of dollars to fight them, if we choose to do so.

Invest 90L

90L has moved west overnight and looks ripe to develop today. While the upper level circulation (500 mb) is very much displaced, the lower level circulation looks strong and coherent through the system's mid-levels (850 and 700 mb). Thunderstorm activity continues to organize, and it appears that a surface circulation is developing. Moisture remains high in the system (around 4.5 g/kg specific humidity) and wind shear should be somewhat favorable as it crosses through the Gulf of Mexico. In terms of track, the statistical models have generally been favoring a Brownsville landfall scenario, but the dynamical models have been inching north over the past day or so. The HWRF is in line with the ECMWF deterministic today, with landfall near Corpus Christi.



The Hurricane Hunters have a mission scheduled for 18Z today (2pm EDT) to investigate whether or not 90L has a closed surface circulation. If it does, given the amount of organized convection and moderate wind speeds (around 34 mph in the latest invest update), the Hurricane Center will probably call this system at least Tropical Depression Four.

If 90L develops this afternoon, I will have another update to look at track and intensity forecasts.

Angela

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1001mb now.

000
URNT15 KNHC 272007
AF300 01DDA INVEST HDOB 20 20110727
195800 2207N 08701W 9746 00276 0058 +231 +165 321013 014 017 003 00
195830 2207N 08659W 9744 00276 0056 +225 +166 332018 021 023 002 00
195900 2207N 08657W 9720 00293 0051 +225 +165 351019 020 022 002 00
195930 2207N 08656W 9728 00278 0041 +242 +163 338023 024 023 000 00
200000 2207N 08654W 9712 00283 0029 +250 +162 334027 029 025 001 00
200030 2207N 08652W 9695 00288 0018 +248 +164 337019 024 021 002 00
200100 2208N 08651W 9742 00245 0015 +250 +168 358008 012 008 002 00
200130 2208N 08649W 9778 00203 0009 +241 +172 084007 009 007 001 03
200200 2208N 08647W 9777 00209 0011 +238 +175 187016 023 005 001 03
200230 2208N 08647W 9777 00209 0017 +236 +177 214026 030 029 002 03
200300 2206N 08649W 9775 00211 0014 +237 +180 229022 025 035 001 00
200330 2206N 08650W 9760 00228 0018 +235 +180 262024 026 040 002 03
200400 2205N 08651W 9765 00228 0026 +241 +180 284032 034 037 002 00
200430 2204N 08653W 9785 00218 0034 +233 +179 283032 032 035 003 03
200500 2204N 08654W 9764 00245 0041 +226 +179 292032 035 034 001 00
200530 2203N 08655W 9766 00245 0046 +229 +177 296029 030 031 002 00
200600 2202N 08657W 9772 00249 0054 +232 +174 296026 027 027 003 00
200630 2202N 08658W 9775 00250 0056 +230 +171 292028 029 028 002 03
200700 2201N 08659W 9758 00265 0058 +235 +169 280028 029 027 002 00
200730 2200N 08701W 9796 00232 0058 +246 +168 278027 028 028 002 00
$$
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Anybody here?
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1524. Gorty
Quoting Levi32:


Not particularly. There are good and bad things about tracking either farther north or farther south. Either way, it will still feel the negative effects of the big central U.S. high. Those may lessen a little bit as TD 4 keeps trying to strengthen, though, and that's why some more intensification is definitely possible.


It looks pretty good right now. It could be near hurricane strength by landfall. We also can't rule out RI. Look at Marco for instance.
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1521. Seawall
Did the blog just come to a standstill?
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hi
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
Quoting JoltyJacob:
It has happened again, folks, Dr. M goes on vacation and, ''TATA''. there is not doubt about his obvious correlation any longer.
Might be that he's good enough to tell when the first one big enough to bring out the trolls is going to occur. Correlation is not causation but when 2 things happen often enough together one does tend to postulate a link.
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hello
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
1517. Gorty
Quoting Levi32:


Not particularly. There are good and bad things about tracking either farther north or farther south. Either way, it will still feel the negative effects of the big central U.S. high. Those may lessen a little bit as TD 4 keeps trying to strengthen, though, and that's why some more intensification is definitely possible.


Comment is below.
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What's up with the blog.I can't see everyone's comment.
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Afternoon. Hope we don't have the "Windshield Wiper" effect with the cone. Texas needs the rain but not a hurricane. That's what I'm hoping for...
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I'm scheduled to fly from Houston to Cozumel at 10AM CST tomorrow. Anyone with experience flying around hurricanes? In your opinion, does it look like my flight may get cancelled??

Thanks
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The quick spin up of storms this season really has screwed with people's timelines.

"WE WON'T HAVE ARLENE UNTIL JULY"
Arlene forms on June 29

"WE WON'T HAVE ANOTHER NAMED STORM UNTIL AUGUST"
Bret and Cindy pop up out of nowhere in the middle of the month.

"NO HURRICANES UNTIL AUGUST"
Looks like this could be the next defeated assumption.
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Pressure down a little bit to 1006.2mb. About to make another pass.
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Man i all ways miss the excitment in here
(second hand news) anyway i see HH made it to the storm found TD4
hopefully it stays a TD models are alittle screwy on this one to say the least or maybe their right and everyone else is the latter ummm :))
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Quoting j2008:
Anything new from the HH??
Quoting j2008:
Anything new from the HH??
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Ahhh, I see. The blog is eating posts...
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Quoting jeffs713:
It is really sad how with the first serious threat to the CONUS... and the trolls come out of the woodwork. I've never quite figured out what the attraction is at trolling...

On another note... based on SFMR obs, looks like TS Don at 5. Lets hope he stays weak, and gives TX some solid rain.


Good time to update your ignore list.
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Quoting j2008:
Anything new from the HH??
what is the movement? w, wnw, nw? tia
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Quoting j2008:
Anything new from the HH??
They are almost back to the center pressure is at 1006mb
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oh kill the blogs
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
Awfully quiet in here...You guys have talked your heads off and now that we finally have a TD, you go silent?

You guys are odd ducks.
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Quoting j2008:
Anything new from the HH??
they are inbound again to the center to get it pinpointed.
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5243
The posts became substantially quiet. *Cricket*

I think we have Tropical Storm Don by 5pm.
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what is the movement? w, wnw, nw? tia
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1495. angiest
Is the blog eating comments?
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting weatherganny:


Yes you are right...are you in south east texas?


Yes
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9680
the sight might crash
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Quoting j2008:
Anything new from the HH??


1006.2 mb
(~ 29.71 inHg)
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5458
Alot of you really believe this is going to be a Hurricane?? LOL

Even Accuweather believes it will be as Hurricane.. And there proffesionals. Are they not looking at the CONDITIONS ahead of this storm? Very slim chance.
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Where is this storm predicted to make land fall as of right now?
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Quoting j2008:
Anything new from the HH??


Second run, current pressures away from the center of circulation are about 1009mb.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
what is the movement? w, wnw, nw? tia
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Quoting angiest:


They aren't calling for preparations, just to enter the watchful-waiting stage. They will narrow that down soon enough (within hours, I expect).


OMG I just got home and about to cry. God didn't forget Texas... according to the models.
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commets not showing
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
Quoting tennisgirl08:
Hi everyone! Wouldn't be surprised if NHC upgrades straight to TS Don. I do have a question, though. I am a bit confused that latest advisory mentioned residents in Western and Central Gulf areas need to be aware. Is it possible models could stretch even more northward?? What are the driving steering currents right now? Thanks in advance.


Model spread mainly. There is a possibility it will squeak further north however, we'll have an official advisory in short order, hang tight for the official info.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5458
Im calling 45 mph sustained 55mph gusts and they will have cat 1 don making landfall
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Anywhere from TX/MX border to LA/TX border is in play IMO
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Quoting RitaEvac:
See these are the kind I have issues with....Say a 75mph hurricane is coming, well I'm not gonna put the shudders up right? so it's forecast to come in for example at minimal cane, so everybody brushes it off and goes to bed, then wake up and it's 115mph major, then it's too late to put the shutters up because weather has gotten too bad and too bad to evacuate
If I were lucky enough to avoid shutters, I'd have them up in even a minimal hurricane.
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Um...did the blog just come to a screeching halt?
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A Dolly situation is surly forseeable.A 100mph cat 2 hurricane is out of the question.Now I've seen some storm systems develope quickly even with dry air.Shear is favorable and sst are boiling hot.The only problem will be the dry air.
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Quoting angiest:


They aren't calling for preparations, just to enter the watchful-waiting stage. They will narrow that down soon enough (within hours, I expect).



The thing that concerns me is that today is already Wednesday..... Friday night is quickly approaching and doesn't leave much time for preparations. I think I need to be more patient, but when storms come into the gulf I get nervous!
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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