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California fires could reach record levels in 2008

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:42 PM GMT on June 25, 2008

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.

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

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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1114. pearlandaggie
3:06 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
1112. thanks, i found it! D@M#%%$( GOOGLE! LOL
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1113. pearlandaggie
3:05 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
1073. certainly there's no chance of a correlation between this and this.
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1112. Weather456
11:02 AM AST on June 27, 2008
Pearl try this link.
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1111. CaneAddict
2:59 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Boris is most likely stronger than the current forecast or estimates, I'd say morel ike a 55MPH tropical storm and Boris is strengthening auite nicely now with the presence of more convective bands developing aroung the circulation...interesting.

a convective band with cloud top temperatures to -80c has developed
around the center of Tropical Depression Two-E during the past
several hours. Satellite intensity estimates are 35 kt from both
SAB and TAFB...and re-examination of earlier scatterometer data
suggested 35 kt winds. Based on this...the depression is upgraded
to Tropical Storm Boris. The initial intensity is increased to 35
kt...and this may be conservative. The cirrus outflow is currently
good in the southwestern semicircle and poor elsewhere.
The initial motion is 295/8. Water vapor imagery and large-scale
model analyses show a mid/upper-level trough over the Pacific north
of 15n between 115-135w. The models forecast this trough to move
westward and weaken...with a mid/upper-level ridge building
westward from Mexico to the north of Boris. This evolution should
allow Boris to move west-northwestward for 24 hr or so...followed
by a turn toward the west as shown by the GFS GFDL and HWRF. The
forecast track follows this scenario...with the new forecast being
a little north of and slower than the previous forecast. It is
down the middle of the guidance envelope in best agreement with the
corrected model consensus. The ECMWF shows an alternate
scenario...with Boris becoming stationary or moving eastward after
96 hr due to the development of another tropical cyclone to the
east. While another cyclone is a distinct possibility...the ECMWF
may be making the system too powerful and too large. Thus...its
forecast track for Boris appears unlikely at this time.
Boris is currently in an environment of light to moderate
east-northeasterly vertical wind shear. The large-scale models
forecast this pattern to persist for 24-36 hr. After that...they
forecast a piece of an upper-level trough currently over the Gulf
of Mexico to move westward and pass near Boris...accompanied by
a significant increase in shear. This would likely stop
intensification...so the intensity forecast calls for Boris to
reach a peak intensity of 50 kt in about 48 hr. The shear is
forecast to decrease after 72 hr...but by that time Boris is
forecast to move over cooler sea surface temperatures. An
alternative scenario based on current convective trends is that
Boris could strengthen faster than currently forecast for the first
36 hr and reach a higher peak intensity.

Forecast positions and Max winds

initial 27/1500z 12.6n 109.3w 35 kt
12hr VT 28/0000z 13.0n 110.4w 40 kt
24hr VT 28/1200z 13.3n 111.8w 45 kt
36hr VT 29/0000z 13.4n 113.5w 50 kt
48hr VT 29/1200z 13.5n 115.2w 50 kt
72hr VT 30/1200z 13.5n 118.5w 50 kt
96hr VT 01/1200z 13.5n 122.0w 40 kt
120hr VT 02/1200z 13.5n 125.0w 35 kt

forecaster Beven

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1110. Stormchaser2007
3:00 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
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1109. 786
3:01 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Storm, whether the QBD is in a Westerly phase?
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1108. IKE
10:00 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
Now you're OK! LOL
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1107. Weather456
10:58 AM AST on June 27, 2008
1101. pearlandaggie 10:56 AM AST on June 27, 2008

March 7 2008.

2008 MAR07 00Z
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1106. pearlandaggie
2:57 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
1105. LOL...my bad...look at the header on their page:

Current Products Last Updated 2008 JUN 27 06 UTC

the date on the page header was correct, so i didn't even bother to look at the date on the graphic! sorry, folks!
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1105. IKE
9:56 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
pearlandaggie....that's from March 07th, 2008!
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1104. Stormchaser2007
2:54 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Thanks for responding to my development question all!! Do you guys think that this might become an invest today?
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1102. 786
2:54 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Thanks StormW..well I guess then we have something to watch
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1101. pearlandaggie
2:54 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
EDIT: nevermind...i found the right page! sorry about that!

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1099. philliesrock
10:54 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
1074. TerraNova

Forget my link. Look at 1097.
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1098. 786
2:51 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Thanks Sheri, I have no idea...the boys on the blog would know...anyone?? Kay
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1097. nrtiwlnvragn
10:53 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
1074. TerraNova

North Atlantic 700 mb Height and Winds
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1096. pearlandaggie
2:52 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
it's funny how rapidly the NHC has changed their minds on Boris' intensification forecast. LOL
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2:47 PM GMT on June 27, 2008

I believe you are correct in the storms moving more northerly today and I think it's because they are riding the edges of the ULL. As the ULL backs off to the west or sw it will bring those storms closer to us.
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1093. IKE
9:50 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1087. Stormchaser2007 9:50 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
Does this wave have a chance to develop??

Looks pretty good on IR....

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1092. Weather456
10:50 AM AST on June 27, 2008
1087. Stormchaser2007 10:50 AM AST on June 27, 2008
Does this wave have a chance to develop??

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1090. 786
2:31 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
In summary for us to see this CATL wave develop in June the following conditions should be present:

1. The wave is at 10 -15N with a 850hPa Easterly vorticity
2. La Nina conditions are present
3. Positive Atlantic Oscillation
4. OBD is in the Westerly phase in the lower tropical stratosphere
5. The MJO is in the Westerly Phase

I myself don't fully understand what all the terms mean but google is a great tool ..
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1089. Tazmanian
7:49 AM PDT on June 27, 2008
the nhc is now forcasting BORIS to have winds of 50kt with in the next few days
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1088. Weather456
10:50 AM AST on June 27, 2008
Yea I correct it.
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1087. Stormchaser2007
2:50 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Does this wave have a chance to develop??
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1086. IKE
9:48 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1085. Weather456 9:48 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1081. IKE 10:45 AM AST on June 27, 2008
456...the central-Atlantic wave...I noticed on your blog you didn't give much indication of a movement. Is it moving west and at what speed?

Remember its not a wave. Its the ITCZ and thus it is embedded within a very weak steering enviroment, so movement wasnt determined. Thats why the UKMET track is unusual.

See post above/below you by Drak?
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1085. Weather456
10:46 AM AST on June 27, 2008
1081. IKE 10:45 AM AST on June 27, 2008
456...the central-Atlantic wave...I noticed on your blog you didn't give much indication of a movement. Is it moving west and at what speed?

Despite a layer of Saharan Dust to its north, the area will be monitored as it meanders slowly within a weak steering environment.

I did not determine the movement becuz of that.
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1084. Drakoen
2:45 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
We have a new tropical wave in the CATL along 36W.
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1083. IKE
9:46 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
Appears to be moving west...definitely a circulation with it.
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1081. IKE
9:44 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
456...the central-Atlantic wave...I noticed on your blog you didn't give much indication of a movement. Is it moving west and at what speed?
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1080. philliesrock
10:41 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
1074. Has to be somewhere on this site...just look.
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1079. 69Viking
9:24 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1065. conchygirl

Quit bragging! LOL! Lucky you!
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1078. Stormchaser2007
2:40 PM GMT on June 27, 2008

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1077. Weather456
10:40 AM AST on June 27, 2008
1072. StormW 10:34 AM AST on June 27, 2008
CATL disturbance...mid level, possible LLC located 7N;36W based on RGB satellite loop.

that is where I saw it too. Quikscat also supported the formation of a LLCC. Its all on my blog.
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1076. Stormchaser2007
2:38 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
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1075. catastropheadjuster
2:33 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
786- Nice article. what phase is the QCB in right know. I know they say they don't use it but i was just wondering.
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1074. TerraNova
9:36 AM EST on June 27, 2008
1072. StormW 9:34 AM EST on June 27, 2008
CATL disturbance...mid level, possible LLC located 7N;36W based on RGB satellite loop.

Morning Storm!

Isn't the blob in the CATL ITCZ convection? It doesn't look like it's associated with a wave or anything of the sort and I don't see any evidence of a low pressure center forming.

Also, do you know where I could find upper level analyses (500mb, 700mb, etc.) for the whole Atlantic basin? I tried Unisys but all I could find there were charts for North America. Thanks in advance.
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1073. Tazmanian
7:37 AM PDT on June 27, 2008
North Pole Could be Ice-Free This Summer

Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
Thu Jun 26, 10:55 PM ET

Arctic sea ice could break apart completely at the North Pole this year, allowing ships to sail over the normally frozen top of the world.

The potential landmark thaw - the first time in human history the pole would be ice-free - is a stark sign of global warming, according to an article Friday on the web site of the The Independent, a London newspaper.

"Symbolically it is hugely important," said Mark Serreze of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. "There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water."

Last year, the fabled Northwest Passage opened as Arctic ice retreated more than ever before.

There is no land at the North Pole, but as long as anyone has looked, it has remained a giant block of ice year-round. Scientists have been watching Arctic sea ice melt more and more each year. But each summer in recent years, the amount of ice has gotten thinner and thinner. Each winter's freeze, therefore, results in a thinner pack that, this summer, could melt altogether.

"The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the North Pole is covered with extensive first-year ice," Serreze is quoted by The Independent. "I'd say it's even-odds whether the North Pole melts out."

Russia and other countries, meanwhile, have been arguing over who has rights to the region's resources, including potential oil reserves.

Several studies in recent years have predicted that the North Pole could be ice-free within a few decades. Alarm has ratcheted up every summer as the ice gets thinner and thinner. In a study released June 10, scientist said the rapid meltoff in the Arctic could threaten permafrost in continental soil elsewhere above the Arctic circle in a warm version of the snowball effect.

Last summer saw a record melt of Arctic sea ice, which shrank to more than 30 percent below its average. Around the peak of the melt, in September, air temperatures over land in the western Arctic from August to October were more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the 1978-2006 average.

"The rapid loss of sea ice can trigger widespread changes that would be felt across the region," said Andrew Slater, also of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
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1071. CaneAddict
2:31 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Folks Tropical Depression 2E is going to be upgraded to Tropical Storm Boris at the next advisory...The NHC's floater is labeled Boris.
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1070. 786
2:09 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Hey everyone, I know its a bit long, but a really interesting article for those who like me are trying to learn about tropical weather and put all the diff. terms together:

"In many cases, TCs in the NA are developed associated with African easterly waves (e.g., Landsea and Gray 1992; Goldenberg and Shapiro 1996; Thorncroft and Hodges 2001). The activity of African easterly waves intensifies (weaker) when the rainfall amount over the western Sahel region exceeds (below) normal. Namely, TC activity in the NA seems to be increased during wet years of the westernSahel. Based on the statistics of the tracking of vorticity centers connected to African easterly waveactivity, Thorncroft and Hodges (2001) showed that the 850-hPa easterly wave at the West African coast between about 10°N and 15°N is highly correlated to TC activity in the NA. This correlation isparticularly strong for the period 1994−1998. This indicates that Atlantic tropical cyclone activity is not influenced only by the total number of African easterly waves but also by the number of African easterlywaves that leave the West African coast, which have significant low-level amplitudes. The western Sahel rainfall is well correlated with ENSO events. Hence, most parts of the interannualvariation in the TC activity in the NA would also be understood by an eastward shift of warm SST regions to the eastern Pacific and corresponding changes in the large-scale convection associated withENSO (e.g., Shapiro 1987; Goldenberg and Shapiro 1996; Tang and Neelin 2004). The ENSO−TC relation results from changes in the vertical wind shear—an enhanced divergent outflow from deepcumulus convection during El Nino years results in an increase in westerly wind in the upper troposphere over the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic; however, variations in the lower tropospheric easterly winds are relatively small. Combining these different influences on zonal wind in the upper andlower troposphere, the vertical wind shear over the NA increases during El Nino years as compared toLa Nina years (Gray and Sheaffer 1991); consequently, the number of TCs and their duration arereduced during El Nino (Landsea et al. 1999). Tang and Neelin (2004) suggested that the anomalous tropospheric temperatures arising communicated the Pacific due to wave dynamics influence the TC development by affecting column stability relative to equilibrium with NA SST. Bell and Chelliah (2006) further investigated into the tropospheric circulation and SST changes that are linked to Atlantic tropical cyclones, both on interannual and interdecadal timescales. Larson et al. (2006) indicated that the AO (and/or NAO) has also acquired a strong influence on theinterannual and intraseasonal variability of TC activity in the NA—an enhanced (decreased) TC activityduring the positive (negative) phase of the AO. In the positive phase of the AO, the subtropical ridge inthe NA is enhanced; a weakening of the Hudson Bay low in the eastern United States and astrengthening and westward extension of the Bermuda high in the western NA. The westerly wind shear is weakens over the main developing region and the tropical easterly jet intensifies over Africa.All of these characteristics provide favorable conditions for TC development. Interestingly, large-scalecirculations for the positive (negative) phase of the AO appear to be similar to those for La Nina (ElNino). Namely, during La Nina years, large-scale circulation is more conductive to TC developmentduring the AO-positive phase than during the negative phase and, during El Nino years. Therefore, it isless conductive to the TC development during the AO-negative phase than during the positive phase. The influence of the QBO on the TC activity is known to be pronounced in the NA than in the other ocean basins (e.g., Gray 1984; Gray et al. 1992; Elsner et al. 1999). During the westerly (easterly) phase of the QBO, the strong TC genesis (i.e., hurricanes) frequency is above (below) normal. It is hypothesized that the ventilation processes in the horizontal wind across the top of the TC are apossible physical mechanism of the QBO-related change. The speed of the zonal wind in the tropicalstratosphere is weak during the westerly phase of the QBO. In this case, there is relatively less ventilation resulting in a positive effect on the TC development. In addition, Shapiro (1989)demonstrated that the largest correlations between storm activity in the NA and the 30 hPa wind areobserved in June. This indicates that the TCs tend to attain a higher intensity when the QBO is in its westerly phase in the tropical lower stratosphere. Recently, however, it is noted that at least in the Atlantic, the QBO is no longer being utilized for

seasonal hurricane forecasting.. The QBO−Atlantic hurricane relationship that Gray (1984) identifiedfrom 1950 to 1983 disappeared from 1984 to present date. Thus, NOAA does not consider the QBOphase for TC forecasting (Landsea, C., personal communication) Maloney and Hartmann (2000a) suggested that the MJO is the strongest influencing factor on theintraseasonal variation of TC activity in the NA. During the westerly phase of the MJO, stronganomalous westerlies are observed in the eastern Pacific extending to the western Caribbean beingaltered by the southwesterlies, resulting in cyclonic circulation anomalies over the Gulf of Mexico. Inthis period, greatly enhanced TC activity is observed over the Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean due to the increased genesis frequency of TC over these regions. During the easterly phase of the MJO,the TC genesis is significantly suppressed because anticyclonic circulation anomalies are formed overthose regions."
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1069. catastropheadjuster
2:25 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
HK make it 5 pieces and 1 for Bama. That'll work. We got a good shower yesterday. I have never felt the rain so cold. It was kinda weird. But nice since the rain settle the dust at out boat repair shop.
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1068. tillou
2:24 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
The blob in CATL looks interesting this morning. If it was about 10 degrees further north I would give it a chance, its a little to far south for me to give it a chance.

O well, at least there is something to watch today.
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1067. catastropheadjuster
2:21 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Hello all, so what does the tropics look like? Is the tropical Atlantic still sleeping? If we could just get the rain we all need all of the future TS,Hurricanes can just be fishy's. We still need a couple of yrs to get things right.
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1066. captainhunter
2:21 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
1061. 69Viking

The 20ft center console gets a little better gas mileage as well! LOL.

Agreed, I too will gladly sacrifice sailing this weekend for some much needed rain.
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1065. conchygirl
10:22 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
Here in Brevard County we've had plenty of rain for the past few days and more expected for the weekend. From the looks of the sky, it is on the way! Nice lighting shows too!
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1064. txalwaysprepared
2:20 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
1062. It actually looks like the storms are moving straight north this morning.. whereas all blobs lately have sent rain east into Florida. But I may just be seeing things. But that would mean neither of us get the rain :(
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