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By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:13 PM GMT on May 16, 2014
More record May heat seared Southern California on Thursday, and fierce Santa Ana winds continued to fan nine wildfires in San Diego County. The fires had destroyed at least eight houses, an 18-unit condominium complex and two businesses and burned more than 15 square miles by Thursday evening, causing more than $20 million in damage. Los Angeles Airport hit 97° on Thursday, which is tied for the hottest May temperature on record, said the NWS in Los Angeles (note, though, that NOAA's Threaded Extremes website lists the all-time May record for LAX at 91°.) All-time record May heat was also recorded on Thursday at Santa Maria (105°.) In Downtown Los Angeles, the mercury hit 102° on Thursday, falling short of the all-time May record of 103° set on May 25, 1896. Temperatures is coastal Southern California are forecast to be 10 - 15° cooler on Friday than on Thursday, and the hot offshore Santa Ana winds will no longer be blowing. This should allow firefighters to gain the upper hand on most of the fires. A steady cool-down will occur over the weekend, with a moist onshore flow of air significantly reducing the fire danger.
Figure 1. A wildfire burns near a home on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in San Marcos, Calif. Flames engulfed suburban homes and shot up along canyon ridges in one of the worst of several blazes that broke out Wednesday in Southern California during a second day of a sweltering heat wave. (AP Photo)
100% of California in severe to exceptional drought
Thursday's U.S. Drought Monitor report showed grim news for California: 100% of the state is now in severe or higher drought, up from 95% the previous week. Though just 25% of California is classified as being in the highest level of drought, "Exceptional", Erin McCarthy at the Wall Street Journal estimates that farms comprising 53% of California's $44.7 billion market value lie in the Exceptional drought area. During the most recent California rainy season, October 2013 through April 2014, the state received 10.44" of precipitation, which is just 51% of average for the period, and the third lowest such total on record. California typically receives less than 10% of its annual precipitation between May and September, and the coming hot and dry summer in combination with a severely depleted Sierra snowpack will cause a severe fire season and significant agricultural damages. The fifth and final snow survey of the season on May 1 found that the statewide snowpack’s water content--which normally provides about a third of the water for California’s farms and cities--was only 18% of average for the date. Already, the 2014 drought has cost the state at least $3.6 billion in agricultural damages, the California Farm Water Coalition estimates. CAL FIRE recently announced it had hired 125 additional firefighters to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions.
Figure 2. True-color MODIS satellite image of Extratropical Storm Yvette taken on Thursday afternoon, May 15, 2014. Image credit: NASA.
Extreme Flooding in Southeast Europe
In Southeastern Europe, torrential rains on May 14 - 15 in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have caused some of their worst flooding ever recorded, killing at least three people and leaving thousands homeless. Extratropical Storm Yvette, a strong and slow-moving upper-level low pressure that cut off from the jet stream, lingered over the region for two days, pulling up copious amounts of moisture from the Mediterranean Sea and generating torrential rains. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic declared a state of emergency in 18 towns and cities, including the capital, Belgrade. "This is the greatest flooding disaster ever. Not only in the past 100 years; this has never happened in Serbia's history," he told a news conference. "In three days, as much rain fell as normally falls in three months," said Goran Mihajlovic, of Serbia's Meteorological Institute. "Statistically, such rainfall happens once in 100 years," he added.
Video 1. A severed bridge floats down the Bosna River in Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 14, 2014. Here is a video of the bridge before it was swept away.
"Fishnado" in Sri Lanka
On May 5, 2014, residents of Chilaw, Sri Lanka were surprised by a rain of 50 kg (110 pounds) of live fish, 5 - 8 cm in length. MODIS satellite images from May 5 show an intense string of heavy thunderstorms formed over the island, and it is likely that one of these storms was a supercell thunderstorm that spawned a tornado which sucked up fish out of a nearby river and then spat them out over Chilaw. Such rains of fish are rare but not unheard of; as I outlined in my blog post on the ridiculous "Sharknado" movie that aired last year, there have been numerous reports of waterspouts or tornadoes picking up fish out of the sea or out of lakes and creating a "rain of fish." For example, hundreds of perch bombarded residents of the small Australian outback town of Lajamanu in 2010. In the U.S., thousands of small fish, frogs and crayfish fell from the sky during a rainstorm at Magnolia Terminal near Thomasville, Alabama, on the morning of June 28, 1957. Many of the fish were alive and were placed in ponds and swimming pools. An F2 tornado fifteen miles to the south spawned by the outer bands of Hurricane Audrey was likely responsible for getting the creatures airborne. William Corliss' intriguing book, "Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena", has an entire chapter devoted to unusual creatures and objects that have fallen from the sky. He relates that in 1946, a scientist at the American Museum of Natural History named E. W. Gudger documented 78 reliable reports of fish falls from all over the world. The largest fish was a large-mouthed bass 9 1/4 inches long, and the heaviest was a six pound fish that fell in India. There were no reports of large, 2000-pound great white sharks, as depicted by "Sharknado", though. Speaking of Sharknadoes, the much-anticipated sequel to "Sharknado", "Sharknado 2: The Second One" is scheduled to hit the air on the Syfy Channel on July 31, 2014. Yes, once again, bloodthirsty man-eating tornado-hurled sharks will terrorize a major American city--this time, New York. According to deadline.com, The Asylum, which is working on the sequel, has come up with a plan to use Indiegogo to raise $50,000 to create another scene for the new movie. Those who contribute to the campaign, which runs through May 30, will get some Sharknado 2 swag and an exclusive window on production, from behind-the-scenes footage to breaking news and advance DVD copies. Al Roker will make a cameo appearance in the film as himself.
Video 2. Villagers collect live fish that rained from the sky on May 5, 2014, in Chilaw, Sri Lanka.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
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