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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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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463. TampaSpin
3:54 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Guess there must a depression form and labeled before someone can make an observation.....wow.....
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
462. atmoaggie
7:51 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
The "spin" you guys are seeing is mid level convective vorticity. An upper level trough lies in the western Gulf of Mexico. The positive earth vorticity over the eastern portion of the trough is generating high nearly meridional upper level diffluent winds at 200hpa, unfavorable for tropical cyclone development.

The intense tropical convection over the inland areas is being supported by the seabreeze convergence. Convection is moving upward and westward as the flow at the lower levels from the subtropical ridge out to the east comes up from the south and southeast.


Dang Drak...highly technical but well communicated. Kudos. (Better explained than I could have done.)
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461. surfmom
7:53 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Buhdog - same w/me --it looks menacing....winds even picked up, cool breeze...NADA....it's a mean tease today
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459. washingaway
2:51 PM CDT 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.
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458. Nolehead
7:51 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
WTH is up with everyones attitude today...gees people this is a tropical blog..if someone thinks they see something then don't criticise them for at least saying something...EVERYONE on here is not an expert, so chill out..i just sure hope this isn't the way it's going to be all season long...lighten up!!
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457. OUSHAWN
7:51 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
451

Well put. That is what I was saying about looking at radar to find a "circulation". I've made that mistake before myself.
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456. Drakoen
7:51 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
453. IKE 7:49 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
12Z ECMWF...

Link


Nothing different from the previous run with a closed low just south of the CV islands.
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455. TampaSpin
3:50 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
454. TerraNova 3:49 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
452. MrMarcus 2:46 PM EST on June 26, 2008
TerraNova - Two words: Mountain, Molehill. I'll let you piece it together. Nothing is going to happen anywhere near Naples today, other than a few showers. Same thing with Tampa, except they will be stronger and last longer.


Did I ever say this would develop? No. Just making an observation.


Terra you are correct.......wow how people love to jump to conclusions......man.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
454. TerraNova
2:48 PM EST on June 26, 2008
452. MrMarcus 2:46 PM EST on June 26, 2008
TerraNova - Two words: Mountain, Molehill. I'll let you piece it together. Nothing is going to happen anywhere near Naples today, other than a few showers. Same thing with Tampa, except they will be stronger and last longer.


Did I ever say this would develop? No. Just making an observation.
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453. IKE
2:48 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
12Z ECMWF...

Link


Stock market down 321.86
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452. MrMarcus
7:31 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
TerraNova - Two words: Mountain, Molehill. I'll let you piece it together. Nothing is going to happen anywhere near Naples today, other than a few showers. Same thing with Tampa, except they will be stronger and last longer.

We Floridians see this type of setup all the time. It's rainy seaonson in Florida. It's one of the joys/pains about living here.
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451. Drakoen
7:38 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
The "spin" you guys are seeing is mid level convective vorticity. An upper level trough lies in the western Gulf of Mexico. The positive earth vorticity over the eastern portion of the trough is generating high nearly meridional upper level diffluent winds at 200hpa, unfavorable for tropical cyclone development.

The intense tropical convection over the inland areas is being supported by the seabreeze convergence. Convection is moving upward and westward as the flow at the lower levels from the subtropical ridge out to the east comes up from the south and southeast.
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450. TampaSpin
3:35 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Dow is taking a hit today........wow
DJIA*
11,516.52 295.31 -2.50%
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
449. Buhdog
7:28 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
All of this rain is dying before it makes shore in SWFL....plus it looks like the seabreeze convection is moving north with this system....are we gonna stay dry in SWFL? our met says yes rain.....I am not sure
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448. HIEXPRESS
3:30 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
These everyday thunderstorms here are certainly giving us the opportunity to train for driving during tropical storm conditions (B4 & after a hurricane).
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447. OUSHAWN
7:26 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
I know Tampa, that's why I said I like your spunk. Believe me, I'm guilty a lot of jumping on "blobs" I see so I'm the last person who would throw stones. I'm just as green as they come at this so I'm here to learn more than anything.
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446. hurricane23
3:28 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
TerraNova check your mail!Thanks.
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445. captainhunter
7:24 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
don't get to excited about the junk in the GOM. Too much shear and it's not forcasted to relax much and there still is the ULL sitting out there as well so very slim chance of anything happening.

Stranger things have happened but I think you're right about this one. ULL especially a problem.
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444. TampaSpin
3:25 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
442. OUSHAWN 3:23 PM EDT on June 26, 2008

Never said anything was developing just observing a spin to watch.......thats all..
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443. OUSHAWN
7:23 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Also, you have to be very careful when looking at radar to try and determine a "spin". Radars are certainly not the best method to determine this...it can be deceiving.
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442. OUSHAWN
7:17 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Tampa...

I like your spunk...lol. However, don't get to excited about the junk in the GOM. Too much shear and it's not forcasted to relax much and there still is the ULL sitting out there as well so very slim chance of anything happening.
Member Since: September 20, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 44
441. TerraNova
2:20 PM EST on June 26, 2008
I see some turning about 80 nautical miles to the west of Tampa Bay. Again, it's very faint and I can't clearly make out a center, if there is one. I also see turning west of Naples. I circled the area in which the circulation "center" look like it's in out of the KBYX site:

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440. surfmom
7:17 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
hmmmmmm, kinda in my neighborhood
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439. TerraNova
2:14 PM EST on June 26, 2008
-
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438. TampaSpin
3:12 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Look at about 26.2N 84.1W
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437. Patrap
2:10 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
<----Uptown New Orleans Link

Area Flood Advisory from that storm I videoed below Link
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436. weathermanwatson
7:09 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Appears to be a weak circulation closing off west of Tampa, (per Tampa radar).
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435. Stormchaser2007
7:09 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
95EINVEST.25kts-1009mb
I see we have Invest 95E.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15946
434. HurrMichaelOrl
7:00 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Where are you located Petrap? Here in the Orlando area we has some strong winds with the storms that are rolling through, it looked like a tropical storm.
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433. smmcdavid
2:04 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Thanks Terra! Didn't know others models had started to agree.
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431. TampaSpin
3:02 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
430. TerraNova 3:01 PM EDT on June 26, 2008

Yep i agree....just interesting to watch.
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430. TerraNova
1:59 PM EST on June 26, 2008
428. TampaSpin 1:58 PM EST on June 26, 2008
Terra did you just see the last imiage, it is really looks be trying to get together...hum.


It does seem to be producing more convection but it's speeding off to the northeast, and will come ashore on the west coast of Florida likely before it can amount to anything. Environmental conditions are not very friendly in the area, with wind shear values running above 20 knots. This will more than likely be a heavy rain producer, nothing tropical.
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429. surfmom
6:59 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
I always say Presslord, that if they banned air-conditioners in Fl only the people who truly loved this state would be here. I live off fans during the day (yes i am a nut case) but I do run air at night
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428. TampaSpin
2:54 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Terra did you just see the last imiage, it is really looks be trying to get together...hum.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
427. presslord
2:56 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
my AC died last night...How the heck did people live here without it??? Was $256 to get it fixed...I'd have paid him 10 times that....
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426. TerraNova
1:54 PM EST on June 26, 2008
418. smmcdavid 1:53 PM EST on June 26, 2008
Well, apparently all the excitement is on the blog today instead of outside! I must have missed something big.

Anything new I should know about.... with the weather/tropics I mean.


Don't worry you didn't miss much! There's an area of disturbed weather in the Gulf producing heavy rainfall over Florida/NE Gulf, with a possible midlevel circulation with it. Chances of development are slim...the whole thing will come ashore soon and wind shear is hostile in the area.

Also a bit of model excitement...GFS has been consistently showing a development in the Eastern Atlantic next week, and the CMC and ECMWF have begun to agree.
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424. Weather456
2:54 PM AST on June 26, 2008
Oh Terra thank you...I didnt get it earlier.
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423. surfmom
6:45 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
good to hear the is light at the end of the tunnel Preslord ! first born has been a cat 5 hurricane from day one LOL --but now that he's found his career/commercial diving (returning to his first love the sea) he's got his act together. Number two, has always been Good Weather
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422. Drakoen
6:54 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
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421. Stormchaser2007
6:54 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
416. Oh sorry! Thanks press....
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420. TampaSpin
2:53 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
419. Patrap
1:53 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Thats a Transformer going "Boom" at the 1:23 mark,from 25 minutes ago here.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
418. smmcdavid
1:51 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Well, apparently all the excitement is on the blog today instead of outside! I must have missed something big.

Anything new I should know about.... with the weather/tropics I mean.
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417. TerraNova
1:50 PM EST on June 26, 2008
Weather456 , did you get the link I sent you earlier? Here it is again in case you didn't...Buoy Data Graphs
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416. presslord
2:50 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
ah...actually...he's one of the owners....and it's his blog.....
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415. Stormchaser2007
6:48 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Sheri, you should have sent the email to Admin....Dr.M is only a meteorologist on this site.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15946
414. TerraNova
1:47 PM EST on June 26, 2008
398. TampaSpin 1:39 PM EST on June 26, 2008
Terra convection is really gathering at that spin location the last 2 updated satellite pics...


Yep I saw that, question is whether it can manage to do anything before it comes ashore in Florida. Wind shear is pretty high in that area (you can see the convection getting sheared off to the NE on visible imagery).
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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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