Wildfire smoke shrouds Denver; climate change expected to increase Western fires

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:16 PM GMT on June 13, 2012

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Colorado's third largest fire in recorded history, the High Park Fire, shrouded Denver and Fort Collins in acrid smoke Tuesday, causing an increase in emergency room visits related to smoke inhalation. The fire, currently burning fifteen miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado, covered over 43,000 acres (68 square miles) as of Tuesday. Firefighters reported that it was only 10% contained, and was exhibiting "extreme" behavior. A lightning strike triggered the fire on Saturday. While fire fighters try to control the southern edge of the fire, the northern perimeter is burning out of control. Six hundred eighty people and 100 fire engines are working on the ground to contain the blaze, along with air support from air tankers and helicopters. The fire has killed one person, burned 100 structures, and cost $1.6 million to fight so far. An air pollution action day has been declared for Wednesday all along the Front Range of the Rockies, from Denver to Fort Collins, due to smoke from the fire. Air pollution levels from smoke will be unhealthy for sensitive groups.


Figure 1. Fire burns in trees behind homes in the High Park wildfire near Fort Collins, Colorado, on Monday, June 11, 2012. (AP Photo)

Beetles, climate change, and Colorado fires
According to the Denver Post, the High Park Fire is burning in an area where 70% of the trees that have been killed by mountain pine beetles; the insects have devastated forests in western North America in recent years. As our climate change blogger, Dr. Ricky Rood explains, the pine beetle is killed (controlled) by temperatures less than -40°F. This is at the edge of the coldest temperatures normally seen in the U.S., and these cold extremes have largely disappeared since 1990. In Colorado, the lack of -40°F temperatures in winter has allowed the beetles to produce two broods of young per year, instead of one. The beetles are also attacking the pine trees up to a month earlier than the historic norm.


Figure 2. The historical mountain pine beetle (MPB) univoltine life cycle (above calendar arrows and linked by black arrows) and the observed MPB bivoltine life cycle (below calendar arrows and linked by red arrows). Univoltine means one brood per year, and bivoltine means two broods per year. Calendar arrow colors represent monthly temperature regimes: blue for less than 0°C, yellow for 0°-4.99°C, orange for 5°-9.99°C, and red for 10°C and higher. From Mitton and Ferrenberg, "Mountain Pine Beetle Develops an Unprecedented Summer Generation in Response to Climate Warming". This figure appeared in Dr. Ricky Rood's blog, "A Hot Day's Night: The Beetles".

A letter from the field in Colorado
Our climate change blogger, Dr. Ricky Rood, is in Boulder, Colorado this summer, and had this report on the fire Tuesday:

Saturday morning Iz and I were driving along 95th Street to Longmont to the Fairgrounds. We saw the initial plume; Iz said, "Looks like a volcano." At that time it was Colorado clear, with blue skies. The plume got to the top of its ascent and kicked off a little convection that looked like cauliflower. For the next few hours you could see the fire grow by the trunk of the plume getting thicker. It mostly blew to the east, with an occasional white cloud topping. It seemed to double in size every couple of hours.

By Sunday, the smoke was spreading all over the state. We had a couple of cool days with a northerly component in the wind. It filled up the sky, here, with haze - most of the day could not see Long's Peak. Part of the day couldn't see the foothills, say Flagstaff Mountain, which is about 8 miles away. Even with the wind moving around to the south, it's remained hazy. Today it has smelt of campfire-like smoke most of the day. Woke up sneezing. There is fine dust drawn to my computer screen and key board, which is at this point simply dirty. The dogs seem a little crazy.

It's not as acrid as the much closer Fourmile Fire a couple of years ago, but for some reason, it's the most dramatic fire I have experienced, perhaps because of the explosive nature of it. Tankers and helicopters fly over all day; they must stage from somewhere south of here. The tanks on them look hopelessly small compared with the fire, but they say, today, they finally made progress. The drought or drought potential is currently stunning, and we expect a lot of fire this year. Water only flowed in our irrigation ditch for four days before we lost priority.

There is a very nice figure in a local magazine, YS, that shows the percentage of snow pack compared with normal. We are South Platte - mid-May at 19 % normal, and not the worst in the state. Really, a nice little article in YS about how to predict a drought. Last year was nearly record wet. Right now this is setting up to be worse than the 2002 drought, which the article says was a 300 year drought. If true, then we had two 300 year droughts 10 years apart--some of our readers should be able to work on that as an attribution problem. The largest fire in Colorado history, the Hayman, was during the 2002 drought.


New Mexico's massive Whitewater Baldy Complex fire continues
The largest wildfire in New Mexico recorded history, the Whitewater Baldy Complex, continues to burn in the Gila National Forest. The lightning-sparked fire began nearly a month ago on May 15th, is 37% contained, and has devoured almost 280,000 acres (438 square miles.) Though fire weather advisories are not in effect in the region, the humidity is extremely low--humidity values of 6% were reported yesterday afternoon in Reserve, New Mexico, inside the burned area. Afternoon winds are expected to remain moderately strong, around 15 mph, over the next few days, as firefighters focus on keeping the southern edge of the fire from spreading. The fire has cost $22.6 million to fight so far.


Figure 3. The Whitewater Baldy Complex fire seen on our wundermap with the fire layer turned on. The red region outlined in yellow is the active fire perimeter.


Western U.S. wildfires expected to increase due to climate change
Expect a large increase in fires over much of the globe late this century due to climate change, says research published this month in the Journal Ecosphere. Using fire models driven by output from sixteen climate models used in the 2007 IPCC report, the researchers, led by Max Moritz of UC Berkeley, found that 38% of the planet should see increases in fire activity over the next 30 years. This figure increases to 62% by the end of the century. However, in many regions where precipitation is expected to increase--particularly in the tropics--there should be decreased fire activity. The scientists predicted that 8% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability over the next 30 years, and 20% will see decreases by the end of the century. The models do not agree on how fire danger will change for a large portion of the planet--54% for the period 2010 - 2039, and 18% for the period 2070 - 2099. Six key factors were found to control fire probabilities in the models. Most important was how much vegetation there was (NPP, Net Primary Productivity). Three other factors, about half as important, were precipitation of driest month, mean temperature of warmest month, and the difference between summer and winter temperature. Two other minor factors were mean temperature of wettest month, and annual precipitation. The authors found that future fire occurrence appears to primarily be a function of available moisture in many areas, and that the expected global increase in temperature of 3.5°C used in the models will not become the single dominant control on global wildfire. In the U.S., the regions most at risk of increased fires are the tundra regions of northern Alaska, and the West, with Arizona and Colorado at particularly high risk.


Figure 4. Predicted fractional change in fire probability for the period 2010 - 2039 (top) and 2070 - 2099 (bottom) for the average of sixteen climate models used for the 2007 IPCC report. For the 2010 - 2039 period, the models agree that 8% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability, 38% will see increases, and the models are too uncertain to tell for the other 54%. For the 2070 - 2099 period, the models agree that 20% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability, 62% will see increases, and the models are too uncertain to tell for the other 18%. Image credit: Climate change and disruptions to global fire activity, Moritz et al., 2012, from the journal Ecosphere.

Rare tornado hits Venice, Italy
A tornado hit Sant'Erasmo island in the lagoon surrounding Venice on Tuesday, ripping the roofs off of at least 12 buildings. No injuries were reported. The Capital Weather Gang has more videos and information on the event. Tornadoes are not unheard of in Venice; a strong one hit the city in 1970, killing 30 people.


Video 1. A waterspout/tornado in the Venice Lagoon on June 12, 2012.

The Atlantic is quiet
There are no threat areas to discuss in the Atlantic today. The NOGAPS and GFS models are predicting formation of a broad area of low pressure in the Western Caribbean early next week, and we will have to watch this area for development. The waters offshore of North Carolina may be another region to watch, over the next few days, along the edge of a cold front that has moved off the U.S. East Coast.

I'll have a new post Thursday or Friday.

Jeff Masters and Angela Fritz

Smokin' Hot Sun (BisonDoc)
Evening sky above the High Park Fire
Smokin' Hot Sun
Fire on the Mountain (BisonDoc)
This is the High Park Fire in Larimer County, Colorado on Day 2. The fire, first reported Saturday morning, June 9th, grew to 20,000 acres by late Sunday. More than 2,600 evacuation orders have been issued. View is looking west across Fort Collins toward the foothills above Horsetooth Reservoir.
Fire on the Mountain
Smokey Monday Sunset (MikePic)
The smoke has been nasty all along the front range, but made for a nice sunset.
Smokey Monday Sunset
High Park Wildfire (apphotos)
Fire burns through trees on the High Park wildfire near Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 11, 2012. The wildfire is burning out of control in northern Colorado, while an unchecked blaze choked a small community in southern New Mexico as authorities in both regions battled fires Monday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
High Park Wildfire

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Advisory will be out soon. The NHC is likely coordinating with the Government of Mexico to setup Tropical Storm and Hurricane Warnings.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32043
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Guchol is now at typhoon intensity with 80mph winds... It's forecast to nearly make Cat 3 intensity, and I personally think it will... Could be a big problem for Japan

gee Japan must have angered someone, every year its another disaster coming to it
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Quoting aspectre:
Anybody have a windmap for 95E?

Based off of satellite data:
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Little off topic, but for the second day in a row we've seen a long duration solar flare... These typically produce powerful CME's... Yesterday's did but it will give us a glancing blow at best... We'll have to see about today's...



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Typhoon Guchol.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21200
Quoting wunderkidcayman:

I am not dreaming
by the way much better pic the other one made you look ugly

joking
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12024
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Which link are you using?


Link
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Keep on dreaming Cayman kid

I am not dreaming
by the way much better pic the other one made you look ugly
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12024
Guchol is now at typhoon intensity with 80mph winds... It's forecast to nearly make Cat 3 intensity, and I personally think it will... Could be a big problem for Japan

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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

What's with the new ATCF file containing all the storms from last year and a couple others?

Which link are you using?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32043
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Goodbye 95E:

BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_DEACTIVATE_ep952012.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201206141321
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END

Wow, good timing Cody.. Was explaining to Aspectre that 95E was dead, when you posted :P
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
The deepest convection is located away from the center for now.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21200
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
I think TS Carlotta will track N soon and the NE then ENE towards Guatemala

Keep on dreaming Cayman kid
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Goodbye 95E:

BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_DEACTIVATE_ep952012.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201206141321
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END

What's with the new ATCF file containing all the storms from last year and a couple others?
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
I think TS Carlotta will track N soon and the NE then ENE towards Guatemala

Steering currents aren't going to allow it to do that. It should continue a northwest motion for the next day at least before gaining an even more westerly component.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32043
I think TS Carlotta will track N soon and the NE then ENE towards Guatemala
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12024
Carlotta could to make cat-2 status.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21200
Goodbye 95E:

BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_DEACTIVATE_ep952012.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201206141321
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32043
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53838
Quoting aspectre:
Anybody have a windmap for 95E?

It's about dead... So, probably... Not
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Anybody have a windmap for 95E?
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info only

my computer been infected with 3 viruses this am

java.exploit,avi 2 of them and a backdoor trojan zip file

everything ok removed them after computer shut down and went in auto protect mode

just letting it out there so if you see that name they are virus programs delete them or remove them asap
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53838
Little wave getting close to the Atlantic.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21200
Quoting Thrawst:


She was a jerk.

Yep, she liked to slap people, that's for sure...
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Yep. Didn't recognize you at first. :)

:P lol
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
lol. just saw this picture looking through hurricane picture galleries.
Is that a challenge?

Maybe that's why she destroyed the Bahamas :P


She was a jerk.
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Carlotta is a decent size storm for the Eastern Pacific.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21200
might not happen..



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New high resolution sat pic..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21200
Derived from (NHC) ATCF data for TropicalStormCarlotta for 14June12pmGMT:
Its vector had changed from NWest at 10.6mph(17km/h) to NNWest at 8.3mph(13.3km/h)
MaxSusWinds had increased from 35knots(40.3mph)64.8km/h to 40knots(46mph)74km/h
And minimum pressure had decreased from 1003millibars to 1001millibars

For those who like to visually track TS.Carlotta's path...
ZLO is Manzanillo :: PNO is Pinotepa :: PXM is PuertoEscondido,Oaxaca :: TAP is Tapachula

The WNWesternmost dot on the kinked line is where Invest94E became TropicalDepression3E
The next dot NWest on the connected line-segment is where TD3E became TropicalStormCarlotta
The SSEasternmost dot on the longest line-segment was TS.Carlotta's most recent position

The longest line-segment is a straightline-projection through TS.Carlotta's 2 most recent positions to the coastline.
The PNO-dumbbell was the endpoint of the 14June6amGMT straightline projection connected to its closest airport.
On 14June12pmGMT, TS.Carlotta was headed toward passing over PuertoEscondido,Oaxaca in ~2days3hours from now

Copy&paste zlo, pno-16.534n98.883w, pxm, tap, mgsj, sal, 8.1n90.0w- 8.4n90.7w- 8.7n91.6w -9.2n92.4w, 9.2n92.4w-9.9n93.0w, 9.9n93.0w-10.5n93.4w, 9.9n93.0w-15.828n97.048w into the GreatCircleMapper for more information.
The previous mapping for comparison.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
It's confirmed that whatever this model is, has a permanent color glitch in the Gulf in the same spot day after day


I frankly don't understand why people even look at those images.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32043
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Like new profile portrait?


Yep. Didn't recognize you at first. :)
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Quoting weatherbro:
Any chance that Carlotta will maintain her circulation as a depression/TS when emerging into the BOC, thus keeping her name?

If it hit the Gulf of Tehuantepec as a Hurricane, I say chances of it surviving are very decent. Though it's not forecasted to head in that direction, exactly. It would have to make a North turn in the next 12 hours and continue like that, which isn't out of the question. And if that's the case it would be a very rare event, that I know of...
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting CybrTeddy:


2006, I think it was Gordon and Helene that did (?)


Oh okay..thanks
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Fujiwhara mentioned a few times in the WU archives inregard to Gordon and Helene
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It's confirmed that whatever this model is, has a permanent color glitch in the Gulf in the same spot day after day, AND where a tropical storm exists has the greater potential away from the existing storm....burn and destroy this model and map and I do not want to see it ever again posted.

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Any chance that Carlotta will maintain her circulation as a depression/TS when emerging into the BOC, thus keeping her name?
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Like new profile portrait?
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
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Storms growing more intense as they set in on the Minneapolis Metro Area.

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Quoting RitaEvac:
I got some rain yesterday, basically a kid taking a leak in a bush



lmao!!
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lol. just saw this picture looking through hurricane picture galleries.
Is that a challenge?

Maybe that's why she destroyed the Bahamas :P
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting ncstorm:


I did but it was back in 2006 or 2007 I believe..out in the eastern atlantic..might have been with dean?


2006, I think it was Gordon and Helene that did (?)
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Quoting ncstorm:


I did but it was back in 2006 or 2007 I believe..out in the eastern atlantic..might have been with dean?


I didn't start following the tropics until 2008. Should be interesting to watch on satellite.
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I got some rain yesterday, basically a kid taking a leak in a bush

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting ncstorm:
I dont know if we ever had two different storms impacting the US before?


Would be interesting to see how much the Fujiwara effect would play into two systems impacting a places like New Orleans and Norfolk at the same time... If the timing and strengths were right it could make the Atlantic storm take a left turn and smack direct into the east coast from the west while the GOM storm could get dragged along the entire southern gulf coast and into the Florida peninsula.
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Poll Time

How strong will Carlotta get before landfall?
(A) She's peaking right now(45 Mph TS)
(B) Strong Tropical Storm
(C) Category 1- 90 Mph IMO
(D) Category 2
(E) Major Hurricane

What will Carlotta's track look like?
(A) A straight track Northwest into Mexico(As forecasted by NHC)
(B) A track northwest with a gradual bend toward the North into Mexico
(C) A track north with a bend toward the northeast
(D) A track toward the North-Northwest with a swing to the Northeast and into Guatemala.

When Will we see Chris?
(A) In the next 48 hours
(B) In the next 120 hours
(C) In the next 240 hours
-In Between
(D) We won't see Chris in the next 10 days

Should I change my profile picture?
(A) Totally
(B) Eh, I don't care
(C) No! It's Awesome!

Will we see Debby in the next 10 days?
(A) Yes
(B) No
(C) Possibly
(D) Before June Ends, but not in the next 10 days
(E) We will see Debby and Ernesto before June ends

1.C
2.B
3.B/C
4.C
5.C
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Rain near ya



Yep. Just had to check the radar. With these earphones on couldn't tell if it was thunder or the neighbors motorcycle. :)
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Nope. Seems I've heard of it but never actually seen it happen. :)


I did but it was back in 2006 or 2007 I believe..out in the eastern atlantic..might have been with dean?
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No luck here SW of Houston.
Quoting etxwx:
Good morning all, including the Friends of Carlotta. (it's going to be hard to resist Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid movie references with that name...)
We picked up 3 inches of rain last night - one of those cells in East Texas must have parked over us. Lots of thunder & lightening, but no serious wind or hail. The ponds are up, hay is green & growing and it is a good morning.
Any luck with the rain last night for the Houston area folks who have been needing it?

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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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