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

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

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.


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Quoting angiest:

You have to have your own wunderblog first before ignore works.

Forgot about that. Thanks.
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Recon plane is about to enter the center of 90L, which is almost certainly a TD or TS Don now.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26780
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
highest measured wind they seen so far was 19.5 mph
and 1009.9mb was 15minutes ago

Yeah, waiting for next update.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4454
i cant wait too see what the HH finds in 90L i hop we see DON today
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Quoting MrstormX:

Lol, I hate TWC so I will believe that argument.

yo tambien, no mi gusta weather channel
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Fair amount of lightning.

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Quoting DocNDswamp:

My apologies Orca, in my haste to rid the cockroach accidentally (!) yours too... LOL, I "plused" it as well to make amends...

ROFLMAO, don't worry about it to much... there is a faction on here that does that to every post I make. I would assume you have to have your filters set to "see all" to see any of mine by now.
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highest measured wind they seen so far was 19.5 mph
and 1009.9mb was 15minutes ago
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 6866
sorry folks dont know what is goin on with this troll
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How does this guy spam so fast? carpal tunnel!
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 332
Quoting Orcasystems:

"IF" they have not enabled their "own" blog... they cannot use the "ignore" function.

Correct. I had to create a blog just for this purpose awhile back. At the time it reset my comments to zero so some folks may take issue with that. But, it cleans up the blog quite nicely.
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Quoting weatherman566:

People are on this blog to learn about a developing cyclone that could impact the United States and effect lives. You are disrupting an educational blog that is meant to teach us about what's happening with our weather around us. Please, go away and spam some sports blog instead.
Dude he's a troll he doesnt understand what you are saying, just imagine he's not there and move on. THIS is to all here, best way is just to ignore and he will stop:/ Ok now i want more info on 90l keep it coming guys thats why im here for the tropics!
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Quoting JRRP:
es la primera persona que pongo en mi lista de ignorados

Yo tambien!
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Quoting pcolaflaboi:

When you ignore someone, is it still supposed to show their name where they have posted a comment? I am still seeing his name but no comment. I'd rather see nothing at all! TIA

thats be come they dont no how too stop Quoteing that some one you may have on Ignore so from time too time you will se that name Quote even no you have that name on Ignore
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Quoting Orcasystems:

"IF" they have not enabled their "own" blog... they cannot use the "ignore" function.

Ohh was not aware of that part. Thx for the clarification there.
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Quoting Seastep:

After hitting it, it should take you to a page and the name will be added to one of the boxes. Then click the "update list" button and you are done.

You have to have your own wunderblog first before ignore works.
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Quoting louisianaboy444:
I'm really starting to think the Weather channel brings these people in here to talk bad about their critics and spam up the blog...man what a pathethic waste of existence why dont they just shut the weather channel down for good lol

Lol, I hate TWC so I will believe that argument.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4454
Anyone know where I can download KML or KMZ for GEarth for live hurricane/storm tracking with cone of uncertainty? Or provide a link?

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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 1 Comments: 332
Time: 18:56:00Z
Coordinates: 22.25N 87.3667W
Acft. Static Air Press: 977.0 mb (~ 28.85 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 287 meters (~ 942 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 1009.7 mb (~ 29.82 inHg)
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 55° at 9 knots (From the NE at ~ 10.3 mph)
Air Temp: 22.8°C (~ 73.0°F)
Dew Pt: 15.7°C (~ 60.3°F)
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 10 knots (~ 11.5 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 14 knots (~ 16.1 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 1 mm/hr (~ 0.04 in/hr)
(*) Denotes suspect data

Getting close?
Member Since: April 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 8647

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Dr. Masters (r) co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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