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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214. TheWeatherMan504
12:51 PM GMT on June 26, 2008

211. Littleninjagrl 12:51 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Thanks to everyone else for the answers as well. You all are great.


your welcome.
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213. FLWeatherFreak91
8:51 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
If any of you get the Tampa Tribune you should read the most ridiculous article that has ever been posted in the paper. "How global warming may lead to higher illegal immigration rates"

You'll laugh I promise
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212. 69Viking
7:46 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
Bass Pro might if you have one around or else maybe try a Radio Shack.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 3022
211. Littleninjagrl
8:50 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
Thanks to everyone else for the answers as well. You all are great.
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210. Weather456
8:45 AM AST on June 26, 2008
203. Littleninjagrl 8:43 AM AST on June 26, 2008
Can someone please explain what the Pressure Risng/falling means? What's good, whats bad. Lamens terms please! lol thanks


Pressure rising means air is sinking (excerting more force on the Earth's surface) - normally fine weather.

Pressure falling means air is rising (excerting less pressure on the Earth's surface) - normally bad weather.

The passage of snynoptic features cause pressure to rise and fall.

There is natural tide in the atmopshere that cause pressure to rise around 10am LT and 10 pm LT and fall around 4pm LT and 4am LT.
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209. beell
12:48 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
200.
456, I beleive this is the output of a script written by wu blogger KarenRei to display press/press trends

Cool!
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208. TheWeatherMan504
12:46 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
203. Littleninjagrl 12:43 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Can someone please explain what the Pressure Risng/falling means? What's good, whats bad. Lamens terms please! lol thanks


When pressure is falling it means eiether an area of low pressure is geting closer or is forming. when pressure is rising it means eiether an area of high pressure is nearing you or is forming over you.
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207. Littleninjagrl
8:48 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
205. StormW 8:47 AM EDT on June 26, 2008

THANK YOU!!!! For once I can actually understand something about the weather without it looking like this when i read it....KJDSFHLSJKDFLISDKJFHLKF E^&R(WQ#&*$HF*(#$

Thanks again Storm!!!!
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206. FLWeatherFreak91
8:47 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
In the most basic sense:

Falling pressure = inclement weather
Rising = improving weather

Rising air provides lift for storms and also drops the air pressure- low pressure system

Sinking air inhibits storm development and rises the pressure- high pressure
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204. Patrap
7:45 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
Atlantic Ocean View 3 Channels (Updated ~3 hours)Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128236
203. Littleninjagrl
8:42 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
Can someone please explain what the Pressure Risng/falling means? What's good, whats bad. Lamens terms please! lol thanks
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202. Patrap
7:41 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
Geeezus..the CV conversation has gone on since Nov last year. It will occur.But not this week,nor the next .
But beating it to death every day wont make it happen any sooner.
Climatology rules that roost.
All the Humans do is cluck it to death like chickens in a Yard fighting over corn feed.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128236
200. Weather456
8:41 AM AST on June 26, 2008
197. TerraNova 8:36 AM AST on June 26, 2008

Can I have a link to the web page where that map came from? TIA
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199. IKE
7:37 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
197..thanks for the map...yeah, they have fallen around buoy 42003...it's still high though....

Buoy 42003
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198. Weather456
8:32 AM AST on June 26, 2008
Thanks SW, pottery and stormfury.

If the GFS comes true, how surprise should we be?

We saw it since March, how conditions indicate an early classic Cape Verde Season and very impressive waves (which already manifested).
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197. TerraNova
12:34 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
193. IKE 12:34 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
The area the pressures have fallen off the most in the GOM is in the BOC...


Buoy/Ship Pressure Tendency Plot (Warm colors indicate rising or steady pressure, cold indicates dropping pressure):

Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
196. Littleninjagrl
8:34 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
192. FLWeatherFreak91 8:34 AM EDT on June 26, 2008

Rain and Hail it seems. :)


We got hit pretty good but no hail.
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195. Patrap
7:33 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
GOM 60 Hour Wave Forecast Model (using Wave Watch III) Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128236
194. stoormfury
12:30 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Thanks FLWeatherFreak91 i will wait for more pics
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2678
193. IKE
7:33 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
The area the pressures have fallen off the most in the GOM is in the BOC...

Buoy 42055
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192. FLWeatherFreak91
8:33 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
189. Littleninjagrl 8:30 AM EDT on June 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Good morning everyone! Looks like another rainy day for me here in Tampa!


Rain and Hail it seems. :)
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191. Patrap
7:31 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
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128236
190. TheWeatherMan504
12:27 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
181. TerraNova 12:19 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Morning StormW!

Large area of shower activity entering the Gulf through the Yucatan Channel...this is supposedly what the NAM / WAVCIS models develop.


hmmmm.... the nam might be right for once.
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189. Littleninjagrl
8:26 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
Good morning everyone! Looks like another rainy day for me here in Tampa!
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188. TerraNova
12:28 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
There's apparently a 95E now that's not listed on the Navy page...floater, dvorak.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
187. stoormfury
12:25 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
456
good analysis of both areas i too will monitor both areas especially the wave the GFS has latched on to
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186. FLWeatherFreak91
8:25 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
*183 Vis sat
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184. pottery
8:20 AM AST on June 26, 2008
Good morning all.
Thanks for the update, 456.
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183. stoormfury
12:14 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Storm w
i am awaiting the visible sat pics to really ascertain what is really happening in the central g/mex. there is a waek circulation within an area of disturbed weather. although wind shear is not all that favourable there seems to be a little pressure drop in the area. QS or ASCAT showed nothing significant in the area what are yur immediate thoughts of what is taking place in the g/mex
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2678
181. TerraNova
12:18 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Morning StormW!

Large area of shower activity entering the Gulf through the Yucatan Channel...this is supposedly what the NAM / WAVCIS models develop.

Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
178. FLWeatherFreak91
8:16 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
#176 I think Target does, but not Publix... but if you want a big selection go to Dick's Sporting Goods.
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177. Weather456
7:29 AM AST on June 26, 2008
Good Morning: Tropical Update: Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Atlantic

Thanks!
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173. FLWeatherFreak91
8:10 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
In case an people in Tampa missed this mornings forecast discussion:

.SHORT TERM (TODAY - SATURDAY)...SURFACE RIDGE AXIS REMAINS ACROSS
NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA WITH LIGHT EASTERLY BOUNDARY LAYER FLOW ACROSS
THE CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN FORECAST AREA...AND SOUTHEAST/SOUTH FLOW
OVER THE NORTHERN FORECAST AREA. THIS WILL AGAIN BE IDEAL CONDITIONS
FOR BOUNDARY INTERACTIONS THIS AFTERNOON
ACROSS WEST CENTRAL AND
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WHICH WILL GENERATE NUMEROUS SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS. W/V IMAGERY STILL SHOWS DEEP TROPICAL MOISTURE OVER
THE EASTERN GULF OF MEXICO AND FLORIDA WHICH CONTINUES TO ADVECT
ACROSS THE REGION. PCPW VALUES WILL RUN AROUND 2 INCHES TODAY
WHICH WILL ALLOW FOR LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL WHICH WILL CAUSE LOCAL
FLOODING OF STREETS AND URBAN AREAS. COLD AIR ALOFT PERSISTS WITH
50T AROUND -10C CREATING STRONG MID LEVEL LAPSE RATES WHICH WILL
PROMOTE LARGE HAIL DEVELOPMENT WITH THE STRONGER STORMS. WBZ HEIGHT
HAS DROPPED TO JUST OVER 10K FT WHICH ALSO INDICATES STRONG POTENTIAL
FOR HAIL WITH THE STRONGER STORMS THIS AFTERNOON
. EASTERLY BOUNDARY
LAYER FLOW WILL ALLOW FOR HIGHEST AREAL COVERAGE OF THUNDERSTORMS
ALONG THE COASTAL COUNTIES AS WEST COAST SEABREEZE WILL REMAIN NEAR
THE COAST.
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172. koneofdeath
12:09 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
161. ShenValleyFlyFish 11:52 AM GMT on June 26, 2008

Thanks ! I have been waiting for one of those.
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170. IKE
7:05 AM CDT on June 26, 2008
164...you do sound like one...I don't blame you...you're not wishing harm to anyone.
Something to track? LOL.
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169. presslord
8:05 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
oh...fear not...I have PLENTY of ego...I just know what I don't know...
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168. biff4ugo
12:01 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
North Central Florida is showing "cut and paste" hot weather with rainy afternoons. Keep up the good work! We need some water to manage down here or I'm out of a job. One funny occurence is that it has been so dry for so long down here that even with a foot of rain, many lakes with associated marshes are not rising. the marshes must be sucking all the runoff up like a sponge. constituents are asking what we are doing with the water, and we don't have much to tell them. The water isn't moving down stream.
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167. beell
12:02 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
Sounds good to me Terra Nova.
And JP,
umm... thanks for the...um...umm's
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166. TerraNova
12:01 PM GMT on June 26, 2008
165. presslord 11:59 AM GMT on June 26, 2008

LOL you should never put yourself down like that!
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
165. presslord
7:57 AM EDT on June 26, 2008
no terra...that makes sense...and it was said so that a moron like me can undertsand it...thaanks
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164. TerraNova
11:38 AM GMT on June 26, 2008
Morning everyone.

Just to clarify something (after seeing the ECMWF and GFS forecasts), the reason the Eastern Atlantic/Eastern MDR is refered to as being climatologicaly unfavorable for development is because sea surface temperatures there do not normally warm up enough to support significant development until late July/August, and the wave train does not normally amplify until late July. Well, regardless of climatology, the Eastern Atlantic just to the north of 8N is favorable for development. And, SST's are unusually high in the region surrounding Cape Verde. Also, we've had very powerful waves coming off the African shore, one that's already been named an invest but slammed into dry land before it could develop further. The others have succumed to dry air, but take a look at current WV satellite imagery. A precursor wave like that would probably provide an ample moisture shield for any waves behind it, especially with the upward MJO pulse arriving from the west. The Cape Verde region is favorable for development at this time, regardless of what climatology may say. However, anything that develops in this region will probably encounter problems with wind shear to the west, where it is unfavorable for development.

God I hope I'm not sounding like a wishcaster :p
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063

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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.