California fires could reach record levels in 2008

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:42 PM GMT on June 25, 2008

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An unusually early and dangerous fire season has hit California, where at least 33 fires burning over a total of 190,000 acres are active, according to the Interagency Fire Center. The fires were sparked over the weekend when an unusually far southward-moving storm system brought numerous thunderstorms to central and northern California. Over 8,000 lightning strikes hit the region. Most of these strikes were not accompanied by rain, since a very dry atmosphere at low levels caused much of the thunderstorm rain to evaporate before reaching the surface. The lightning strikes ignited an unusual number of fires, due to exceptionally dry vegetation in California. This year, the state experienced its driest spring season (March-April-May) since record keeping began in 1895, and much of the state is in moderate to severe drought.


Figure 1. Visible satellite image from NASA's Aqua spacecraft on Monday, June 23, 2008, showing smoke from hundreds of wildfires sparked by lightning in California. The red regions show where the satellite's sensor detected fires burning. The smoke has created air pollution levels in excess of the federal standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) over much of California's Central Valley. Image credit: NASA.

The forecast
With the dry season only beginning, it could be a record fire year in California. Even before last weekend's lightning storms, California had already seen an unusually large number of destructive wildfires, according to CalFire--90,000 acres had burned, compared to 42,000 acres during the same period last year. It is not unusual for large portions of the state to receive no rain at all in July and August, such as occurred last year (Figure 2). The jet stream typically moves far enough north in summer that the migrating low pressure systems that bring California most of its rain only hit the northernmost portions of the state. With high fuel levels due to a century of misguided fire suppression efforts, moderate to severe drought gripping the state, no rain in sight for months to come, and an above-normal chance of warmer than average temperatures forecast this summer for the state by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, expect a record fire season in California.


Figure 2. Observed precipitation over California during 2007. Much of the state received no rain at all during July and August, which is a common occurrence. A little bit of thunderstorm activity did make it into the easternmost portion of the state, thanks to moisture flowing north-westward from the Arizona Monsoon. However, the Sierra Mountains block this moisture from reaching the central and western portions of the state. Image credit: NOAA.

Tropics
It's quiet in the tropical Atlantic. There are no threat areas to discuss, and none of the models are forecasting tropical storm formation in the next seven days. Beyond a week from now, the GFS is hinting that the region off the coast of Africa could see some development, but it is still probably too early for this too occur, despite warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the region.

Jeff Masters

San Bruno Mountain Fire - Cresting the Ridge (ajkimoto)
Photo taken as the fire crested the ridge of San Bruno Mountain
San Bruno Mountain Fire - Cresting the Ridge
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514. TheWeatherMan504
8:34 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
how do i report him to admin?
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513. surfmom
8:30 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
honestly, I have to say that if I have a good question it is always answered and most of my lame ones too! Very often, people will bring up charts, graphs, or other wealths of information as well.

But you can't get too sensitive either -- with bright minds often comes great wit. This also is a playground of sorts and sometimes people throw sand
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512. Floodman
3:34 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
506. jphurricane2006

I feel left out...I didn't get an email threatening my life from a pseudo-intellectual...you snooze, you lose, I guess
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511. atmoaggie
8:31 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Tampa long-range loop radar: Link

Only something out there if it is very shallow (below the radar beam). Otherwise, I only see daytime heating giving a boost to seabreeze-driven vertical lift over the peninsula. In the GoM? Nothing worth writing home about.
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510. TerraNova
3:33 PM EST on June 26, 2008
508. Drakoen 3:32 PM EST on June 26, 2008
Is that the guy who claims to have an MS and BS in Meteorology?


Yep.
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509. 69Viking
3:31 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
How about report it to the Police not just the Admin.
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508. Drakoen
8:31 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
503. TheWeatherMan504 8:28 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
did anyone else get a lifethreating email from tropical discussion?


Is that the guy who claims to have an MS and BS in Meteorology?
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507. 69Viking
3:23 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
498. txalwaysprepared

Don't feel bad, there's a dome in Florida just like that sitting over the whole Fort Walton Beach and Destin areas!
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505. IKE
3:29 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
503. TheWeatherMan504 3:28 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
did anyone else get a lifethreating email from tropical discussion?


Report it to admin...
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
504. saintsfan06
3:27 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Thanks for the info - the link will help alot.
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503. TheWeatherMan504
8:27 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
did anyone else get a lifethreating email from tropical discussion?
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502. Joshfsu123
8:23 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
From our local newschannel in Tallahassee:


Some Organization to the Scattered Showers?

Some of the computer models have been hinting at a little surface Low developing in the Gulf. Just looking at current radar trends, those computers appear to be right. Due west of Tampa (at about noontime Thursday) there's a good batch of rain that looks a little menacing as it spreads North. If this thing holds together, we might get a little more than scattered showers later this afternonn/evening. As a matter of fact, the 50% rain chances I've got inthe forecast right now are looking too low. With plenty of low-level moisture, that little tropical wave spreading more love, the sea breeze and outflow boundaries acting as the triggers, and now that developing hiccup that looks like a surface low, we could be in for a soggy go at it for Thursday/Friday...

http://www.wctv.tv/weatherblog/headlines/21802079.html

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501. captainhunter
8:21 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
It worries me greatly as I feverishly prepared for the next sure and horrendous mega-hurricane and now I have all that wood and generating capacity and decaying storage of gasoline...and for what? I am beginning to feel like I have been had.

You won't feel "had" when your windows are still intact and the food in your fridge isn't spoiled.
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500. OUSHAWN
8:08 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Tampa, sorry you took that statement as a bashing...it was never meant that way at all. Actually, I've always respected and enjoyed your comments and analysis. Hope there's no hard feelings.

Anyway, just as a stated earlier about me being a blob watcher as well...I'm actually watching the little blow up right near the Yucatan tip. Now I know that this time of year we always have storms fire up over the Yuc. during the day but most of this is actually over the water. Nothing to write home about but something to watch.
Member Since: September 20, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 44
499. Floodman
3:21 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
450. TampaSpin

Only because Libya said the same thing every other OPEC country in the world is saying: the market is full of oil...the price increases are artificial caused by greedy investors and gullible buyers...

OPEC loves the price increases, but they have to be getting nervous...it gets too high and the demand will start to drop
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498. txalwaysprepared
8:18 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
So irritaing. Storms around all day. Lightning. Thunder. Cool Breeze. Not a darn drop of rain at my house! I'm telling you... I have a dome over my house that repels storms!!
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497. atmoaggie
8:18 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
saintsfan, and others:

Also save this Link. That is the AMS weather glossary. Put in most any weather term to get a definition. For example, out of Drak's post... vorticity, meridional, diffluent, seabreeze, convergence, convection, subtropical and ridge are all probably in there.

It is not very useful for acronyms, though, unfortunately...it should be and needs to be.
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496. Orcasystems
8:19 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
The Race is on :)

Who gets to the Hawaiian Islands first.
The Victoria / Maui 2008 Yacht race, or Invest 95 & 94.

Two years ago they whined about the lack of wind for the race, I bet they don't this year :)
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495. clamshell
8:20 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Yellow Science? From the Wall Street Journal.
Link

While 'blob watching' are we not guilty of 'yellow science' by proclaiming a slight spin as the next disasterous 'early hurricane'?

Are we, in effect, desensitizing the public by crying wolf so very often?

Could wishcasting be the same as the unscientific method described as 'yellow science'?

It worries me greatly as I feverishly prepared for the next sure and horrendous mega-hurricane and now I have all that wood and generating capacity and decaying storage of gasoline...and for what? I am beginning to feel like I have been had.

Does anyone else feel like I do?

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494. TerraNova
3:14 PM EST on June 26, 2008
489. atmoaggie 3:13 PM EST on June 26, 2008
The NAM continues to forecast surface cyclogenesis

No offense (of course) but NAM is so poor at cyclogenesis. Wonder why Tallahassee would reference it that way. NAM simply isn't built for that.


I agree, I don't think the NAM was programmed with the intention of it being a tropical cyclone model...I've seen the NAM mostly being used for severe weather forecasting, and it's pretty good at that.
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493. atmoaggie
8:13 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Also, I don't usually ask questions for fear of getting the responses that have been thrown out today

You usually will not get flak for asking any question. (Almost) No question is a dumb question.

Greetings from St Tammany, btw.
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492. 69Viking
3:11 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
483. TampaSpin

Great advice, I check StormW's blog anytime I see a term here I don't see and he usually has it listed!
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491. surfmom
8:11 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Yup, StormW's vocab list is good, I also did drop some $ and bought some weather books...thing is this is way more fun then the books and when it unfolds real-time ---you can immediately take explanation and apply them to the maps...but I will admit the books helped...ultimately it is a divining art (IMHO)
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490. Drakoen
8:12 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Monitoring the ITCZ:
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489. atmoaggie
8:08 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
The NAM continues to forecast surface cyclogenesis

No offense (of course) but NAM is so poor at cyclogenesis. Wonder why Tallahassee would reference it that way. NAM simply isn't built for that.
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488. IKE
3:11 PM CDT on June 26, 2008

485. 69Viking 3:11 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
474. IKE

Best news I've seen, the low goes on shore near Destin Friday night, bring on the rain! Thanks IKE!


Hope it's true....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
487. Nolehead
8:11 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
tampa, we got your back...just keep those observations comin..
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486. Buhdog
7:59 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Yeah surfmom....we may still get some late firing up of the seabreeze closer to the coast.
It takes alot of moisture to make it to the ground when it comes off the gulf.
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485. 69Viking
3:09 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
474. IKE

Best news I've seen, the low goes on shore near Destin Friday night, bring on the rain! Thanks IKE!
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484. TerraNova
3:07 PM EST on June 26, 2008
464. 69Viking 2:57 PM EST on June 26, 2008
Sigh, still no rain along the coast in the NWF Panhandle. Seabreeze storms are firing nicely 5-10 miles inland and puching off to the North as always. Need that GOM Blob to move North and bring some of that moisture to us. Storms are firing up again Southeast of the Yucatan, interesting.


The Panhandle should be seeing some thunderstorm activity soon. CAPE (Convective Avaliable Potential Energy/the amount of energy in the atmosphere that thunderstorms could utilize to form and grow) has been increasing within a corridor from Jacksonville to Panama City...and the Keys will also probably get some good rain later on.

Interesting to see how the storms in Central Florida have drained the atmosphere of energy so quickly. Some areas have discharged 2600 Joules/Kg of energy in the last three hours.

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483. TampaSpin
4:08 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
481. saintsfan06 4:08 PM EDT on June 26, 2008

If you go to StormW's blog, in the beginning he list many terms that might help you.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
482. 69Viking
3:07 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
472. IKE

So lucky to be in the line of those seabreeze storms you are! I live south of 98 and work at Hurlburt, not a drop of rain yet. Seems to be a dry circle around the Fort Walton Beach area. Maybe tomorrow or Saturday.....
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481. saintsfan06
3:03 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
I am still in the dark with all of the terms you guys use ie: SST and all of the others. Is there a place I can go to get a handle on the lingo you guys use? Also, I don't usually ask questions for fear of getting the responses that have been thrown out today. I just try to pick up what I can but it is frustrating. This is my second year lurking.
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480. TampaSpin
4:06 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
474. IKE 4:04 PM EDT on June 26, 2008

LOL guess Terra and my observations does not go without some merit...lol
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
479. Nolehead
8:05 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
captain, we'll take whatever we can get these days...it should be heading that way..if not today it should be friday for sure. at least you would sure think anyways..
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477. 69Viking
2:57 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
458. Nolehead

Well put Nolehead! I was just observing some since getting back to my desk and talk about snappy some people are today. It's Thursday folks with the weekend just around the corner, chill! The GOM is very interesting to watch right now indeed. Bring it North please.
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476. ajcamsmom2
3:03 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Wow...it is really popping here...thunder bolts and lightning, very, very frightning...
Anyway...it it pouring down raining...got in my house right before it started...going to see if I can find out how the weather was about a week before Katrina...I remember it was beautiful the Sat. before when I left the Pass.
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475. captainhunter
8:02 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Dang Nolehead and Ike, still not a drop on my stretch of PCB. I was hoping to get out of cutting the grass. Glad you're getting it though.
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474. IKE
3:02 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Short-term discussion from Tallahassee,FL...

"Short term (tonight through saturday)...the 12z GFS/NAM and sref
models forecast a continuation of the abundant deep layer moisture
streaming northward into the Gulf Coast and southeastern states, as the area
remains under southwest flow aloft between the trough to the west
and Bermuda ridge to the east. With favorable thermodynamics and
onshore winds in the 1000-700 mb layer, expect scattered to numerous
showers and thunderstorms each afternoon and evening. The NAM
continues to forecast surface cyclogenesis over the southeast Gulf
tonight, then takes the low ashore near Destin Florida late Friday night.
The GFS reflects this cyclogenesis, but is much weaker than the NAM.

Therefore, will place more emphasis on the GFS solution. While
widespread severe weather is not expected, some strong storms will
develop, with the potential for a few pulse severe storms. The
increased moisture and cloud cover will keep high temperatures near to
slightly below climatology each day."

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
473. Drakoen
8:01 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
468. surfmom 7:58 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Drak - I almost understand all of that...which last year this time would have completely sailed over my head...give myself a "B" for my weather class today ..."I think she's got it" LOL actually I am quite pleased - the weather garble is starting to have clarity


LOL. Glad to hear you're learning!
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472. IKE
2:59 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
464. 69Viking 2:57 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Sigh, still no rain along the coast in the NWF Panhandle. Seabreeze storms are firing nicely 5-10 miles inland and puching off to the North as always. Need that GOM Blob to move North and bring some of that moisture to us. Storms are firing up again Southeast of the Yucatan, interesting.


Nice rain here earlier...updated forecast...70% chance of rain tomorrow and Saturday!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
471. Nolehead
8:00 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Viking, we just a good soaker!! sure hope it heads your way!! yeah the yuk has been firing all day long...
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470. washingaway
2:58 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Thanks for the reply TerraNova.
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469. surfmom
7:58 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Need the observations Tampa Spin...that how I get to learn....honest!!! Otherwise my eyes do not know how to look/see what people are talking about. This is like my work book
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468. surfmom
7:55 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Drak - I almost understand all of that...which last year this time would have completely sailed over my head...give myself a "B" for my weather class today ..."I think she's got it" LOL actually I am quite pleased - the weather garble is starting to have clarity
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467. TerraNova
2:57 PM EST on June 26, 2008
451. Drakoen 2:44 PM EST on June 26, 2008


Thanks drak!
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466. TampaSpin
3:57 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Yes Drak your anaolgy was well done without critisim.......well done.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
465. TerraNova
2:54 PM EST on June 26, 2008
Has anyone noticed the circle in center of the gulf, was is that, and what would cause it? Look at in motion. I've never seen an outflow do that.

It's the thunderstorm downdrafts interacting with dry air...looks nice on satellite imagery, but these outflow boundaries are usually indications of pretty strong storms. Hope nobody's sailing out there.

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464. 69Viking
2:50 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Sigh, still no rain along the coast in the NWF Panhandle. Seabreeze storms are firing nicely 5-10 miles inland and puching off to the North as always. Need that GOM Blob to move North and bring some of that moisture to us. Storms are firing up again Southeast of the Yucatan, interesting.
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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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