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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364. IKE
12:14 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
It's already thundering at my house.........

Florida panhandle
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363. surfmom
5:14 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
First big rumble of thunder...LOL I really nailed it perfectly today.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
361. Floodman
12:10 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
356. NEwxguy
355. leftovers

Gotta watch out for EM pulse type conditions...we have satellite, and haven't had any problems so far *knocks on wood*

As for modems, I haven't used a modem in years, but I've seen cards that have burnt to the PCI bus, and that calls for a new motherboard; that can run into a few dollars
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360. surfmom
5:09 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Whew, just in from my run --ahhh to be out in such exciting weather and to have it perfectly timed. When I had three miles left on the return, I felt the air cool and was surrounded by dark ominous fast moving clouds. The Gulf was this incredible blue,green,aZure,teal color, the air is electic, it was a "buzz" run. It's fun to look at the radar see it coming in and then get the mileage in before it hits. Ensures a focused fast paced run. could my barometer be reading 30.17???? Sarasota,SWFL
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
359. FLWeatherFreak91
1:11 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
What make jp? Oregon?
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358. Stormchaser2007
5:08 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
354. Why do you say that? Everything points to E.Atl development in the coming week.
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356. NEwxguy
5:06 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
cabletv boxes are very sensitive also,have lost a couple due to storms.
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353. FLWeatherFreak91
12:57 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Looks like we are in for a squeeze play this afternoon here in Pinellas County. Storms are coming at us from the S,SW,E and SE. Been real rainy since last Saturday.

Yeah. We're in for some Mega-Wx today
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352. Drakoen
4:48 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
GFS 84hr 700hpa winds + AEJ axes. You can see the wave axis will be over Nigeria with a good amount of potential vorticity.
Photobucket
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351. TerraNova
11:47 AM EST on June 26, 2008
350. clwstmchasr 11:47 AM EST on June 26, 2008

Climatology tells you when conditions in a region of the basin normally become conductive towards tropical cyclogenesis. In certain cases conditions have become favorable before the time of year which climatology indicates, Bertha being an example for that; the current setup in the Eastern Atlantic being another. Regardless of what climatology says, the east is favorable for development at the moment.
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349. TerraNova
11:42 AM EST on June 26, 2008
348. Buhdog 11:39 AM EST on June 26, 2008
Shear is too hard to predict 3 weeks out....there is room in patches of low shear where things could happen. The post 338 by patrap shows how fast something can happen...even by the coast. I agree shear is high now.....but that could change quick with an anticyclone. IMO


I remember that Lorenzo's explosive intensification into a hurricane before landfall in Mexico was a bit of a surprise as well (it was for me, anyway, also Erin's formation). Just goes to show you how quickly a situation can develop regardless of atmospheric conditions and proximity to land...Humberto being a perfect example of that.
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348. Buhdog
4:36 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Shear is too hard to predict 3 weeks out....there is room in patches of low shear where things could happen. The post 338 by patrap shows how fast something can happen...even by the coast. I agree shear is high now.....but that could change quick with an anticyclone. IMO
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347. Drakoen
4:34 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
344. TerraNova 4:32 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Drak, do you agree that the feature which the GFS develops into a cyclone in the medium range has not yet formed? There's been some debate over that on this blog; and after looking at the 850 vort for the 06z GFS run I concluded that the wave hasn't appeared yet and that the GFS does nothing with the area of convection about to emerge off the African coast. Just asking your opinion.


It hasn't formed yet but the GFS has the wave materializing over the African eastern highlands over the next 24-48 hours.
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346. TerraNova
11:35 AM EST on June 26, 2008
342. OUSHAWN 11:30 AM EST on June 26, 2008
I just really don't see anything happening in the tropics for at least another 3 weeks or so. The GOM and Caribbean have too much shear and it's just too early for CV storms...IMO.


The conditions which usually do not make the CV region favorable for development until late July have already appeared.
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345. Stormchaser2007
4:31 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
342. Every things right for a CV storm and all we need to see for it to happen is a wave with a closed low and decent convection....plus we have three models who support the idea CMC,GFS and ECMWF. Looks pretty possible to me IMO.
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344. TerraNova
11:29 AM EST on June 26, 2008
Drak, do you agree that the feature which the GFS develops into a cyclone in the medium range has not yet formed? There's been some debate over that on this blog; and after looking at the 850 vort for the 06z GFS run I concluded that the wave hasn't appeared yet and that the GFS does nothing with the area of convection about to emerge off the African coast. Just asking your opinion.
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343. IKE
11:30 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
Looks like it emerges and forms on July 1st...off of the African coast.
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342. OUSHAWN
4:27 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
I just really don't see anything happening in the tropics for at least another 3 weeks or so. The GOM and Caribbean have too much shear and it's just too early for CV storms...IMO.
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341. Stormchaser2007
4:27 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
94EINVEST.25kts-1007mb-110N-1054W

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340. Drakoen
4:28 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
339. IKE 4:26 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
The 12Z GFS through 132 hours...
Link


It looks like its pulled the time frame closer with the low coming of Africa.
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339. IKE
11:24 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
The 12Z GFS through 132 hours...
Link
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338. Patrap
11:14 AM CDT on June 26, 2008




Date: 12-14 SEP 2007
Hurricane-1 HUMBERTO
ADV LAT LON TIME WIND PR STAT
1 28.10 -95.20 09/12/15Z 30 1006TROPICAL DEPRESSION
1A 28.30 -95.10 09/12/18Z 40 1005 TROPICAL STORM
2 28.60 -94.90 09/12/21Z 45 999 TROPICAL STORM
2A 28.80 -94.80 09/13/00Z 45 998 TROPICAL STORM
3 29.00 -94.60 09/13/03Z 55 995 TROPICAL STORM
4 29.40 -94.40 09/13/05Z 70 992 HURRICANE-1
5 29.90 -94.10 09/13/09Z 75 986 HURRICANE-1
5A 30.30 -93.60 09/13/12Z 70 987 HURRICANE-1
6 30.60 -93.20 09/13/15Z 55 990

TROPICAL STORM
7 31.40 -92.60 09/13/21Z 30 1003 TROPICAL DEPRESSION
8 31.80 -91.50 09/14/03Z 20 1007 TROPICAL DEPRESSION
9 32.50 -91.20 09/14/09Z 15 1008 TROPICAL DEPRESSION
10 32.80 -89.30 09/14/15Z 15 1010 TROPICAL DEPRESSION

Humberto showed us how fast a Tropical Storm situation..can escalate into a Cat-1 Cane,and fool even the Experts.


Never turn your back on a approaching TS that may find a sweet spot and Groove on in as a Real Wallop.
Especially overnight.

It Dosent have to come from Africa , nor the deep Tropics to bring trouble in a Hurry.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
337. Stormchaser2007
4:15 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
336. Stormchaser2007
4:10 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
335. Patrap
11:09 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
2007 Atlantic Storm Tracks Link

06 Link

05 Link

04 Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
334. philliesrock
4:08 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
333. The one on the right is 94E, the one on the left is 95E; no reliable models develop them.

Everyone - Check out my writeup on why there's an above-normal chance of seeing our first Cape Verde storm in early July.
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333. Stormchaser2007
4:02 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
CMC has three storms in the Epac in 132hours....

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332. Patrap
10:57 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
GOM and Atlantic Buoy Quick Access Link

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
331. Patrap
10:55 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
Buoy Station 42055 - Bay of Campeche

Conditions at Buoy 42055 as of
(9:50 am CDT)
1450 GMT on 06/26/2008:Link


Latest Satellite Wind Map for this Area
Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
330. cchsweatherman
11:43 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
Good morning all! Feels great to be back after taking a few days off from forecasting and weather.

The East Pacific has really become quite active and I would not be surprised to see two tropical cyclones this weekend in that area. Sometime later today, I will update my site on Invests 94E and 95E.

Unlike many people here, I'm not concerned about the disturbed weather in the GOM as wind shear remains unfavorable. Like others have said, this enhanced convective activity can be explained by deep tropical moisture from an approaching tropical wave interacting with an upper level low. No development is expected with this area.

I'm finding the models quite interesting as the two most reliable models (the GFS and ECMWF) are forecasting some possible development within a week off Africa. Many people have discounted this as "climatology does not support development" off Africa. To be honest, climatology is one of the last factors I consider for potential tropical development. Environmental conditions are the most important factors in considering possible tropical development and right now, we have favorable conditions for tropical development off Africa. In fact, I'm going to forecast tropical development off Africa in about a week from now. A strong tropical wave is well overdue to develop now.
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329. stoormfury
3:47 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Drak there now seems to be Model consistency and concensus taking route with this disturbance off the african coast
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328. Floodman
10:44 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
310. whirlwind

I can tell you this: if the strike is close enough, an unplugged system won't help either; I lost the modem in a computer that was completely unplugged because of the proximity of the strike; unless the case is sealed against EM the lightning strike will act like an EM Pulse and burn anything that's delicate enough...the effected piece of equipment was next to the exterior wall, which helped considerably with the proximity issue, but nevertheless, despite me unplugging everything from it, it got fried (the modem, that is)
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327. stoormfury
3:44 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
i have checked the ASCAT a number of bouys in the g/mex and the MSLP are high and rising and on this basis the convection in the gulf of mexico will be nothing but a rain maker
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326. Drakoen
3:41 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
I forgot to mention the CMC is showing development by the African coast as well.
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324. Nolehead
3:31 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
is there a little spin in the BOC or am i just seeing things?? i'm probably just wishing,lol..but it does look like something may start under that ULL...any ideas?
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323. OUSHAWN
3:26 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
I agree...not much of a pressure drop for a 24hr period. And 1016 is still pretty high. There is just no way for anything to get going in the GOM as high as the shear is and with the ULL still hanging out in the W.Gulf.
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322. Drakoen
3:28 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Good morning everyone. I see the GFS still wants development and now the ECMWF is hinting development as well.
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321. Michfan
10:24 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
Still higher than normal atmospheric pressure and the drop is pretty slow.
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320. TampaSpin
11:21 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
Conditions at 42055 as of
(9:50 am CDT)
1450 GMT on 06/26/2008:

Pressure is -2.4mb lower now than 24hours ago.....it is 1016.5mb at 10:50am est.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
319. nash28
11:03 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
CAPE is already around 4000-5000 J/KG. PWATS approaching 2.0 and LI between -9C and -10C. Could be fun day for W Central FL and the east coast as well. Should be alot of coverage.
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318. NEwxguy
2:58 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
sorry,your right,I got my links mixed up.
my bad
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317. stoormfury
2:59 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
LASTESRST ASCAT IMAGE OF THE AREA IN THE CENTRAL G/MEX

Link
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316. melwerle
3:00 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
alright kids - off to start my suv after not starting it for two months...pray it doesn't blow up in the driveway...

bbl...have fun.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
315. Patrap
10:00 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
GOES IR Loop of the Gulf of Mexico Link

Gulf of Mexico (Updated every ~10-15 mins.)
3 Channels IR,WV and Low Cloud Visible Link

GOM 60 Hour Wave Forecast Model (using Wave Watch III) Link

Atlantic Ocean View 3 Channels (Updated ~3 hours)Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
314. nash28
10:58 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
For you severe wx junkies, we have pretty good CAPE values today.
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.