California fires fueled by record drought

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:40 PM GMT on October 23, 2007

An area of disturbed weather has developed near the northern Lesser Antilles Islands, due to a westward-moving tropical wave interacting with an upper-level low. Wind shear is currently too high (30 knots) to allow development of this disturbance. However, the past two runs of the NOGAPS model have predicted that wind shear will fall enough by Friday to allow a tropical depression to form near the western Bahamas. This storm is predicted to move westward across eastern Cuba and into the Western Caribbean. The GFS model does not go along with this scenario, but hints at a weak system developing and moving northeast out sea over the middle Atlantic. The UKMET and ECMWF models do not develop a Bahamas storm, either, but do show a large region of low pressure with low wind shear developing over the Western Caribbean later this week. It would not be a surprise to see a tropical depression develop in the Western Caribbean late this week or early next week.

Southern California's fire storm
Surface maps show a strong high pressure system centered over Nevada and Utah. The clockwise flow of air around this high is driving strong northeasterly winds over Southern California. As the air spills down the mountain passes into coastal San Diego and Los Angeles, gravity helps accelerate the winds. The air compresses and warms as it descends, due to the higher pressures found at sea level. This creates a very hot, low-humidity wind--the dangerous Santa Ana wind. At 1:37 pm PDT yesterday, the humidity in downtown Los Angeles was 8%. Some wind reports Monday afternoon in Southern California, showing the strength of the Santa Ana winds:

Los Angeles County peak wind gusts
------------------------------------------------- --
Leo Carrillo Beach... ... ... ... ... ... ... Northeast 44 mph.
Van Nuys... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..... North 39 mph.
Tonner Canyon... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... Northeast 46 mph.
Malibu Canyon... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... Northeast 41 mph.
Malibu Hills... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..... North 54 mph.
Newhall... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. Northeast 38 mph.
Newhall Pass... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..... North 72 mph.
Saugus... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... North 60 mph.
Del Valle... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... Northeast 50 mph.
Acton... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... Northeast 45 mph.
Camp Nine... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... North 71 mph.
Chilao... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Northeast 55 mph.
Mill Creek... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... North 41 mph.
Sandberg... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..... East 40 mph.
Warm Springs... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..... East 62 mph.
Whitaker Peak... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... North 48 mph.
Lake Palmdale... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... Northeast 46 mph.
Poppy Park... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... East 43 mph.
Saddleback Butte... ... ... ... ... ... ..... East 33 mph.
Lancaster... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... East 31 mph.

Ventura County peak wind gusts
--------------------------------------------
Oxnard... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... East 41 mph.
Camarillo... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... Northeast 51 mph.
Point Mugu... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Northeast 43 mph.
Piru... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..... North 49 mph.
Simi Valley... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. Northeast 41 mph.
Thousand Oaks... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... North 42 mph.
Laguna Peak... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. Northwest 62 mph.

Fourteen large wildfires have developed spanning seven counties in California since Saturday, thanks to the Santa Ana winds, and the prevailing extreme drought conditions. Rainfall in San Diego has been a mere 2.6 inches thus far in 2007, 32% of normal. The July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007 period was the 4th driest on record in San Diego. In Los Angeles, it was the driest year since record keeping began 130 years ago. Downtown Los Angeles has recorded just 3.37" of rain thus far in 2007--only 28% of normal.

Air quality
Not surprisingly, air quality due to particulate matter has been awful in Southern California (Figure 1). Exceedances of the Federal air quality standards by more than a factor of two have occurred the past three days in both Los Angeles and San Diego. Hightened particulate pollution is strongly correlated with increased death rates, particulary in vulnerable populations, such as those with heart conditions, athsma, or other lung diseases. Everyone should avoid any outdoor exertion; people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should remain indoors. Keep your windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot inside. In these cases, seek alternate shelter. Run your air conditioner if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. EPA's Airnow website has more information.


Figure 1. Visible satellite images taken midday on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Overlaid on the images is the peak daily particle pollution Air Quality Index (AQI) levels due to smoke. Poor air quality became more widespread across the region as the number and size of the fires increased from day to day. Smoke is visible as white or bluish-white streaks. Blowing dust (brown streaks), reducing visibility under three miles, is also apparent on the images. Image credit: NASA and EPA.

The forecast
The warm, dry, and windy weather will continue today, bringing a repeat of yesterday's extremely dangerous fire situation. A trough of low pressure is expected to move into northern California Wednesday morning, weakening the high pressure system driving the Santa Ana winds. By Thursday, the Santa Ana winds will be gone, and fire fighters will be able to gain the upper hand.

This may only be the first of several serious fire situations in Southern California in the coming months. Santa Ana winds conditions commonly develop during the October through March period, and the extreme drought conditions in Southern California are not going to improve until at least December, when the winter rainy season typically starts. The 3-month precipitation forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls for a 33% chance of below-average rainfall over Southern California for the coming winter.

The University of Wisconsin's CIMSS group has a more detailed blog with many weather maps and satellite animations of the Southern California fires.

San Francisco's Climate Challenge
San Francisco residents have a different and more positive kind of challenge this week. An innovative contest designed to encourage residents to reduce energy usage is being launched, with a sign-up deadline of Wednesday. The content offers prizes up to $5000 for those residents able to reduce their energy consumption the most over the coming month. For more information, see the new Weather Underground climate page: at http://www.wunderground.com/climate/. The new page will track current climate trends each month, and feature stories on new research and programs in the climate change field every few weeks. We'll also add a full set of information on the science of climate change over the coming months. The goal is to have a web site that keeps track of the most important issues in climate change.

Jeff Masters

Effect the winds in this truck! (chentetij)
Volcadura de un trailer por los vientos de Santana
Effect the winds in this truck!
Smoke over Woodbridge (wheels)
A fire east of Irvine produced major air polution
Smoke over Woodbridge

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358. V26R
1:03 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
And Im stuck in a station with nothing near it!!!
THANKS!
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356. V26R
1:01 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
Oh Great now the DD reference
No Sympathy on this site!!!
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354. flaboyinga
8:57 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
51. V26R 8:56 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
Man My fat cells are now screaming
Thanks for the donut reference!


You can put off the craving with some of those Danish Wedding Cookies and a good cup of coffee. I am headed to the kitchen right now. (I'd be running if it was Dunkin Donut Cherry Cake Donuts) lol.
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353. V26R
12:58 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
Not sure either Cane Because a Bunch of my freinds just got down onto Antigua two days ago and today they're telling me that the winds are gusting out of the North to NE with on and off rain and from the looks of the Sat shows, looks like a LLC trying to get its act together under that ULL
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352. CaneAddict
12:55 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
I really dont understand why the NHC has'nt yet declared and Invest with at leastone of the two potential areas. An invest if im correct is an disturbance with the potential for tropical development, Well both areas define an Invest...
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2151
351. V26R
12:55 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
Man My fat cells are now screaming
Thanks for the donut reference!
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350. flaboyinga
8:53 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
333. StormW 8:04 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
Good morning all!
Back in a bit...time to make the doughnuts...I mean, perform analysis!


A man of many talents.
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349. V26R
12:54 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
NEWX Boston is One Lucky Team
GM Dude!!!
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348. V26R
12:53 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
Anyone know if QUICKSAT made a pass over the system to the NE of the Islands this morning?
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347. flaboyinga
8:49 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
340. CaribBoy 08:32 AM EDT am 24. Oktober 2007
This is an impressive looking system with nice rotation


If the convection wraps around the center and a few other things happen to intensify it, we might get an invest.
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346. weathers4me
12:46 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
FINALLY!!! The rains came last night and it is still raining here in W central FL on the coast. Rain gague says almost 2 inches and climbing..
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345. CaribBoy
08:36 AST le 24 octobre 2007
341. franck 08:35 AST le 24 octobre 2007
Caribboy...it seems so, but the media forecasters do not show it developing.


I hope they are right!
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 8753
344. NEwxguy
12:41 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
GM,looks like we have a couple of areas,doesn't look like anything is going to happen too quickly,everything has to wait for this cold front to back off.
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343. TampaSpin
8:41 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
340. CaribBoy 8:32 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
This is an impressive looking system with nice rotation
Link


Its mostly ULL
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20573
342. TampaSpin
8:32 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
The system south of Jamacia might get going first.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20573
341. franck
12:34 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
Caribboy...it seems so, but the media forecasters do not show it developing.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
340. CaribBoy
08:30 AST le 24 octobre 2007
This is an impressive looking system with nice rotation

Link
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338. IKE
7:26 AM CDT on October 24, 2007
The low east of the islands should be an invest within the next day or 2...maybe sooner.
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337. CaribBoy
08:24 AST le 24 octobre 2007
Good morning!

Looks like the low east of the islands is now under 10Kts shear.

Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 8753
336. AussieGal
12:20 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
maybe storm w can tell me a better place than krispy kreme to get decent donuts here in Charleston... ;)
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335. Ivansvrivr
12:07 PM GMT on October 24, 2007
Hurricane(cat-5) versus Wild fire.

Hurricanes are easy to survive with commom sense. its' the aftermath thats hard. Wildfires are more comparable to tornadoes. Fema took a good lesson from Florida in disaster prep. Still.. a city in a hole that's full of water still presents big challenges in disaster prep, they're doing a good job in a bad situation in SOCAL. Seeing those poor folks in California like that is no different than aftermath of hurricane. Those of us that have been through a nat. disaster understand, those that haven't should thank God!
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334. IKE
7:06 AM CDT on October 24, 2007
Statement as of 5:30 am EDT on October 24, 2007

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico...

A weak area of low pressure centered about 150 miles east-northeast
of the northern Leeward Islands is producing a large area of
cloudiness and showers. Upper-level winds are not favorable for
significant development of this system. The low is expected to
move slowly westward during the next couple of days.

Elsewhere...tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the
next 48 hours.

$$

Forecaster Cobb/Brown
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332. biff4ugo
6:57 AM EST on October 24, 2007
Wow! I can't remember the last time I saw the tropical weather board cleared on all fronts.
Yea, RAIN in Florida!
I know California and Georga need it despirately but I'm sure glad to see our lake creep a few inches up against their large deficite.
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331. IKE
7:03 AM CDT on October 24, 2007
From the San Juan,PR discussion....

"Surface low is expected
to drift west today...but be forced west-southwest across the leewards
tonight...and then SW into central Caribbean Thursday through Friday."
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330. TampaSpin
8:00 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
329. wadcane 7:57 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
Hurricane(cat-5) versus Wild fire.
If you were in a situation where you could not escape what would be your better chance of surviving??? I would like your opinions?? How would you protect yourself against any of these natural disasters?? In my opinion a wild fire would be more difficult to survive.

if in the open you couldn't even stand up in a Cat5 if you knew you would not survive the fastest death would be with fire and probably the least painfull. Sounds crazy but if you understand how burns work it would be less torture in the long run.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20573
329. wadcane
7:55 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
Hurricane(cat-5) versus Wild fire.
If you were in a situation where you could not escape what would be your better chance of surviving??? I would like your opinions?? How would you protect yourself against any of these natural disasters?? In my opinion a wild fire would be more difficult to survive.
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328. TampaSpin
7:50 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
Interesting to see what happens with the bermuda high building West and this front coming...its going to stall a while somewhere i would think.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20573
327. TampaSpin
7:46 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
Ike you are correct every model now has something developing. Not sure that happened all year in aggreement like that.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20573
326. IKE
6:42 AM CDT on October 24, 2007
leftovers 5:55 AM CDT on October 24, 2007
I love Calif. but unfornately when you get that many rats in a cage there are no doubt going to be alot of crazys who like starting fires. What happen to the second half of hurricane season? Not complaining.


It took a one month vacation....I think it's got one final push...look out western Caribbean ...through Cuba...south Florida and the Bahamas.

The NOGAPS..UKMET...ECMWF...CMC...NAM and GFS all show something getting going with the area east of the islands.
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325. coffeehat
11:42 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
WOW 47 this morning in Houston Texas. Usually comes in on Halloween night more often than not, so little early this year. Its surely welcomed.
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324. melwerle
11:28 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
Morning -

Spoke with family and friends that are in San Diego dealing with the fires right now. MANY homes lost - go to www.kfmb.com for live streaming as well as maps and list of houses gone. Have rec'd photos but have no idea how to post them here. I was in the cedar fires 4 years ago there and from what I understand, this is worse. The largest fire was cause by a downed power line - the winds carry the embers and then more fires start. I will give San Diego this though - I have never seen such generosity and order from a million people evacuated. At Qualcomm, they have bands to entertain the evacuees, volunteers coming in to entertain the children, stores set up to provide whatever people need (free of charge), sunblock being passed around, tons of water available to whomever wants it and meals being served round the clock. Schools are closed for the rest of the week, businesses are closing to allow people to be home with their kids. Even TARGET closed. There was a call for people to STOP bringing donations at one of the places - too much to be able to give out. Hats off to them...for being in the land of "fruits and nuts" (I lived there for 20 years - I lovingly call it that), they sure pulled together in a time of crisis.
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323. Weather456
7:19 AM AST on October 24, 2007
Good Morning all

Lots of rain for me...impressive looking system

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
322. TampaSpin
7:02 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
Wow is it pooring rain. Sweet
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20573
321. stoormfury
11:00 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
morning
i am a bit concern this morning with what appears to be an area of disturbed weather in the central caribbean .the area at the moment is under 20 knots of wind shesr and appears to be moving eastward. this reminds me of the scenario of hurricane Lenny in november of 1999. there is a little rotation and with the shear forecast to relax a bit , it would be interesting to see what pans out the next few days
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 3076
320. Tigerose
6:52 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
amaxin, we here in NC should see a good chance for rain for the next 4 days. Depending on where you are in the state, could be between 2 and 4".
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318. sullivanweather
10:48 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
Hey JP, g' mornin'!

I'm currently devoting a special blog to the top 20 Northeast weather events of the last 25 years. It's currently under construction, but stop by and take a look at it if you like...

It should be completed in 3 or 4 days due to the tremendous amounts of information that's being poured into it. Very informative and will keep you guessing what events are next, yet to be added.

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317. amazinwxman
10:43 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
if the front is expected to retrograde does that mean no rain or slim chances of rain for us here in NC! or will the front make it to us( hope it's not too many questions it's just that our press has a story saying stage 4 water restrictions are coming soon if we continue with no rain).
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315. amazinwxman
9:53 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
This strong cold front pushing through the U.S. right now will it not pick up the area of disturbed wx and kill it or push it back out to sea? Isn't the disturbed area suppose to be anywhere from the Bahamas to the Carribbean by the time the front finally does push through?
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314. ShenValleyFlyFish
5:47 AM EDT on October 24, 2007
test
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313. silverstripes
11:43 PM PDT on October 23, 2007
Check out the ramsdis floater on the southern CA fires. It shows the smoke pretty well coming off the fires.

Link
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312. UYA
6:28 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
DEEP
LAYERED TROUGH ASSOCIATED WITH THE FRONT EXTENDS FROM THE
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY OVER THE GULF AND A SUBTROPICAL JET WITH
ESTIMATED WINDS OF 90 TO 110 KT EXTENDING FROM THE TEXAS COAST
NEAR CORPUS CHRISTI THEN N ACROSS E LOUISIANA AND MISSISSIPPI.
GALE FORCE NORTHERLY SURFACE WINDS REMAIN OVER THE BAY OF
CAMPECHE.


Nope....nothing happening there.
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311. cattlebaroness
6:30 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
Goodnight to anyone who is still out there. Hope everyone stays safe.
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310. cattlebaroness
6:22 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
Thanks Korithe. Seems like most systems are falling apart. Dare we say the season is definitely winding down?
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309. UYA
6:22 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
...FL...
A GREATER POTENTIAL FOR SURFACE HEATING/STRONGER INSTABILITY ARE
EXPECTED TO DEVELOP ACROSS MUCH OF ERN AND SRN FL TODAY AHEAD OF THE
EWD MOVING COLD FRONT. THIS WOULD PROMOTE A LIKELIHOOD FOR STRONGER
TSTM DEVELOPMENT. HOWEVER...STRONGER DEEP LAYER SHEAR LAGGING THE
FRONT AND WEAK MID LEVEL LAPSE RATES ARE EXPECTED TO LIMIT THE
DEVELOPMENT OF MORE WIDESPREAD STRONG TO SEVERE TSTMS TODAY.
DESPITE THESE LIMITING FACTORS FOR A GREATER SEVERE THREAT...7-8
C/KM LOW LEVEL LAPSE RATES SHOULD ALLOW FOR A FEW LOCALLY STRONG
WIND GUSTS AS TSTMS DEVELOP ALONG AND AHEAD OF THE COLD FRONT.

..PETERS/GRAMS.. 10/24/2007
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308. UYA
6:22 AM GMT on October 24, 2007
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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