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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914. Drakoen
1:58 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Those winds should slacken as a longwave trough moves of the eastern seaboard pushing back the subtropical high. I don't think the increase in the trade winds is a long-term trend.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
913. kmanislander
1:59 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Arthur came from the Pacific system. Were it not for that unusual circumstance we would still be without an Atlantic system so far this year.

I do not consider Arthur indicative of anything for the Atlantic season
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912. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:59 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
removal completed
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911. BahaHurican
9:54 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Evening everybody. Glad to see that cooler heads prevailed over the troll. Let's keep that up so we can have all insanity later this season directed toward the weather . . . LOL

I'm not sticking around; I'll poke my head in the door in a couple hours if I find anything of interest. I am finding the waning THCP and SST discussion interesting, and will be interested in seeing what others who haven't done so as yet have to hypothesize about its cause[s].

Peace out!
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910. extreme236
1:57 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
909.

Well the whole "slow start to the season" thing was shattered by Arthur, but I get your point lol
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909. kmanislander
1:53 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Drak

That is true, but there is a double whammy with too strong a high or too great a pressure differential between the N Atl and SA.

1. Cooling of SST due to strong trade winds, and

2. The inability of TWaves to develop closed lows due to forward speeds near 20 to 25 mph

If the condition persists it could lead to a slow start to the season, a possibilty I raised a couple of nights ago

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908. Drakoen
1:56 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
907. JFV 1:55 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Thanks Drak! Hey Drak, are you waiting for the brand new GFS model run to come out later on this evening?


I might see part of it but not all of it. If I want to see the GFS 00z run I can see when I wake up tomorrow morning lol.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
906. presslord
9:49 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
yea surf...he's also an avid WU aviaition weather addict...my wife thinks we're both hopeless weather nerds....
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905. Drakoen
1:52 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Usually around this time of year we see an increase in the SST's with the sun being directly over head.
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904. CaneAddict
1:35 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Tazmanian, I don't quite understand why you basically have to brag about who is on your ignore list...This blog is not about how many ignores Tazmanian has made.
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903. kmanislander
1:47 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
902. Drakoen 1:46 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
The SST's have been decreasing somewhat because of the anomalously higher trade winds over the tropical Atlantic due to the increase in the trade winds due to the pressure gradient between low pressure over Northern South America and the subtropical high of the eastern seaboard


Simply put, stronger trades mean cooler SST
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902. Drakoen
1:38 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
The SST's have been decreasing somewhat because of the anomalously higher trade winds over the tropical Atlantic due to the increase in the trade winds due to the pressure gradient between low pressure over Northern South America and the subtropical high of the eastern seaboard.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
901. kmanislander
1:45 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
897. nrtiwlnvragn 1:42 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
872. kmanislander

SSD


Many thanks. For a while I thought I had become invisible !! LOL
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900. surfmom
1:43 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
presslord,he's got a passion --that is the good thing. It's really wonderful when the young bucks find something they love. Flying would terrify me, by then Polo is a real nail bitter as well
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899. weathermanwannabe
9:42 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
895. TampaSpin 9:41 PM EDT on June 26, 2008 Goodnite all be civil and peace out..

Goodnite to you as well (and the rest of the folk)........I'm out too and hope we get some rain out of this in Northern FL.....WW
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898. pearlandaggie
1:43 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
alright, folks, i'm out, too. let me know if you smart folks figure out why the TCHP is decreasing...

/thank goodness for no more TropicalDepression!
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897. nrtiwlnvragn
9:40 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
872. kmanislander

SSD had a scheduled reset of some servers this morning and has had problems since.

Link
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896. Tazmanian
6:41 PM PDT on June 26, 2008
goood that he said if he got ban he will come right back with a new ID


i dont think so
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895. TampaSpin
9:40 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Goodnite all be civil and peace out..
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894. pearlandaggie
1:40 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
seems to be a fair amount of dust in the CAtl...

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893. presslord
9:37 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
I don't think he just got banned, taz...I think he got erased....vaporized
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892. weathermanwannabe
9:31 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
886. TampaSpin 9:30 PM EDT on June 26, 2008 Cool Beans and I agree with you (too tired to go "back" right now....Lol)....That area in the Gulf has not even looked close to getting organized for the past 18 hours (which I noted this am myself when I was last on)....Some of the models are not that great at initializing cyclogenisis and I was taken aback by the NAM when looking at the present shear level (unless it was anticipating a sudden drop before this morass got to the northern gulf)...
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891. Inyo
1:32 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
One important thing to remember about fires is that those in the chaparral of coastal California are probably not related to fire suppression, even though the fires in our state's pine forest (and possibly oak forest) are. In chaparral, there are actually too many fires in many cases, which is largely due to a proliferation of non-native annual plants which are able to burn every year rather than only every 20-50 years as chaparral naturally did.

see http://www.californiachaparral.com/ for more info.
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890. melwerle
1:33 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Airght kids...gotta go - it's been entertaining this evening. Long day - going to Jax with the boat for race practice...ttfn
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888. Tazmanian
6:30 PM PDT on June 26, 2008
well it looks like Tropicaldiscussion this got a ban from this blog
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887. thelmores
1:29 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Thanks Pat.... I'll have a look see....

nite all..... great chatting with all of you....

Hey GS..... you better be on your game this year.... I expect much entertainment this year! ;)
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886. TampaSpin
9:28 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
881. weathermanwannabe 9:27 PM EDT on June 26, 2008

Never said anything would develop but, a surface low is there on visible satelite...it is fighting 20kt shear as i noted the same in this blog all evening......look back.
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885. weathermanwannabe
9:27 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
878. TampaSpin 9:24 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
Weathermanwannabe THE low is at 28N 83.3W


That is the exact location of the bouy I checked and pressures are rising as of 8:00 PM...
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884. Patrap
1:28 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Nola environmental has all the info Thel..its in my Blog Header. Along with the Corps of Engineers too.Link
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883. beell
1:25 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
875.
Sounds better than mine Pearland. Albedo ala GulfScotsman. Maybe a combination of the two?
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882. thelmores
1:26 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
879....

Thats basically what I heard, which I thought was unbelievable after all the money/time/effort/blood/sweat/ and tears that have been expended.....

It's almost like they expect the worse, but hope for the best. Downplay your expectations, thus CYA!
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881. weathermanwannabe
9:24 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
877. thelmores 9:23 PM EDT on June 26, 2008...Just checked the Bouy NE of Tampa and pressure is actually rising so guess I'll take a look at it tommorow morning on the visible loops; I don't see anything developing from a bunch of clouds with 20 knots of sheer blowing overhead......
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880. thelmores
1:23 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
thanks for the updates Pat... I trust your opinion.....
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879. TheWeatherMan504
1:22 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
patrap i had a conversation with my father yesterday and he said bob brek said the levees will breach again if a Cat 2 moving at 5 mph hit NOLA.
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878. TampaSpin
9:23 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
873. weathermanwannabe 9:20 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
866. TampaSpin 9:17 PM EDT on June 26, 2008 Thanks; I can't see it on the current WV loop....Do you have an approximate lat-long for that supposed low?

Weathermanwannabe THE low is at 28N 83.3W

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877. thelmores
1:19 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
no convection at all with the surface low....

interesting observation anyway....
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876. Patrap
8:12 PM CDT on June 26, 2008
Levee here are Fine..Seen many a Cat 2 here.
Its a Major Surge that can do harm..not no Lil ones.


Only a Super can harm the Levee Protection System..Remember,it was small Outfall Canals with no Floodgates that failed Thel,not the Big River or the East West big Lake Levees.

Now those Outfall Canals have Floodgates to keep the Lake headwaters out.
Wouldnt worry over the NOAA story crap.

A SSS Cat 2 can range from Nothing ..to something depending on Surge,...and angle and the centerline is everything here.

Heres all the info ya need on that stuff from the Mules mouth.Link

nolaevironmental

Levees failed upriver en masse the Last 2 weeks .

Thats where the real Improvements are needed Id say. Not here. We gonna be fine.
Maybe,maybe not..depends on the future.
Not Man-Made Levees
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875. pearlandaggie
1:20 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
868. maybe the A/B high is pulling the SAL across the CAtl?
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873. weathermanwannabe
9:17 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
866. TampaSpin 9:17 PM EDT on June 26, 2008 Thanks; I can't see it on the current WV loop....Do you have an approximate lat-long for that supposed low?
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872. kmanislander
1:18 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
Hi everyone

Just coming on since last night. Anyone know why the NOAA sat page has not updated since 15:15 UTC today ?
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871. thelmores
1:18 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
fine GS.....

ok I am ready for my test from 848!

can we make it true/ false? LOL

Genesis in the SE Gulf??

Is this what Tampa pointed out??
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870. pearlandaggie
1:17 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
i wonder if the retreating TCHP is related to the SAL...
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869. Tazmanian
6:17 PM PDT on June 26, 2008
well Tropicaldiscussion this be came # 50 on my Ignore
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868. beell
1:10 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
A WAG on the cooler SST's:
The strong A/B ridge axis has a SW/NE orientation for several days. Strong NE surface winds in this corner of the high. Bringing cooler water from up north? Maybe we are used to seeing a more E/W aligned ridge?

Photobucket
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867. presslord
9:14 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
his instructor says he believes the reason my son is so good so young is flight sim he's been foolin with since quite young....
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866. TampaSpin
9:15 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
864. weathermanwannabe 9:15 PM EDT on June 26, 2008

There is a surface low just NW of Tampa moving NNW......i have been watching it all evening...
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865. pearlandaggie
1:16 AM GMT on June 27, 2008
latest SAL image...

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864. weathermanwannabe
9:08 PM EDT on June 26, 2008
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TALLAHASSEE FL
230 PM EDT THU JUN 26 2008

THE NAM CONTINUES TO FORECAST SURFACE CYCLOGENESIS OVER THE SOUTHEAST GULF
TONIGHT, THEN TAKES THE LOW ASHORE NEAR DESTIN FL LATE FRIDAY NIGHT. THE GFS REFLECTS THIS CYCLOGENESIS, BUT IS MUCH WEAKER THAN THE NAM.
THEREFORE, WILL PLACE MORE EMPHASIS ON THE GFS SOLUTION.


Been out this afternoon; what's the word on this folks?......I just don't see it happening with 20 knots of shear....
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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.