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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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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1063. HurricaneKing
10:21 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
Split all blobs into 4 pieces. One for texas, one for florida, one for the carolinas (NC needs rain. Not sure about SC), and one for california.
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1062. 69Viking
9:18 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1060. txalwaysprepared

No, bring the blob here!
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1061. 69Viking
9:14 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1058. captainhunter

LOL! Need to win the lottery for that first! Nope, just have a 20ft. Nautic Star Center Console, gets me where I need to go. Love getting out on the water but I'll gladly sacrifice that for some rain this weekend!
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1060. txalwaysprepared
2:14 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
SHAWN - I want the blob to come here!!
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1059. txalwaysprepared
1:44 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
1034. LOL Pearland speak for yourself. We've had maybe two days of rain at my house. We didn't get a drop yesterday :(
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1058. captainhunter
2:08 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Well, call me slow - I just connected 69Viking and FWBHS.

Rats, I was hoping he had a 69 foot Viking Sportfisher and was going to the us all fishing.
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1057. weathermanwannabe
10:07 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
Off to do chores...BBL
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1056. 69Viking
8:55 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1051. F1or1d1an

Look closer at my Avatar, that's not a FWB Viking. I'm just west of FWB on the south side of why 98 a stones throw from the sound. You?
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1055. weathermanwannabe
9:58 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
1053. OUSHAWN 9:57 AM EDT on June 27, 2008

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
805 AM EDT FRI JUN 27 2008

AN UPPER LEVEL LOW IS PINCHING OFF IN THE WEST CENTRAL GULF NEAR 25N93W.EXPECT SCATTERED SHOWERS AND TSTMS TO RE-DEVELOP ACROSS THE CENTRAL GULF FRI AFTERNOON AS UPPER LOW IS STAGNANT TO MOVE MUCH AND REMAIN OVER THE WRN GULF WATERS.


Looks like that ULL will drift around for the short term and keep things quiet in the Gulf..
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1054. Weather456
10:00 AM AST on June 27, 2008
Good Morning

Tropical Update: Central Atlantic Disturbance
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1053. OUSHAWN
1:55 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
If that ULL in the western gulf can finally move its rear end out of there like forecasted than maybe something can finally get interesting out there. There certainly is enough energy and SST's support it.
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1052. captainhunter
1:46 PM GMT on June 27, 2008

Just a brief light shower, enough to wet the roads but not even enough to create any puddles. That sure was a nice cell that moved North through Niceville though, I saw it on radar. Maybe today.....


Morning 69Viking and Destin Jeff. Still not a drop here in PCB yesterday. Surely we will see some precip today and into the weekend.
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1051. F1or1d1an
1:31 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Well, call me slow - I just connected 69Viking and FWBHS.

You in Niceville now?
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1050. OUSHAWN
1:48 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
I found this interesting this morning...


AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX
642 AM CDT FRI JUN 27 2008


DISCUSSION...


UPPER LOW OVER THE WESTERN GULF SHOULD DRIFT S AND SSW WRAPPING IN
MOISTURE TO SETX FRIDAY...MORE WIDESPREAD RAINFALL POSSIBLE FRIDAY
AND SATURDAY.


AGAIN WILL IGNORE THE TROPICAL SPINUP OVER THE WESTERN GULF THAT
SOME MODELS ARE POINTING TO AS WIND SHEAR NOT CONDUCIVE AND FINER
MODEL DETAILS LOOK SUSPECT.
45


I didn't realize there were any models spinning up something in the western gulf. Does anyone know which ones they are?
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1049. TampaSpin
9:49 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
1046. TerraNova 9:46 AM EDT on June 27, 2008

You might be correct....it has moved further North since yesterday.
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1048. weathermanwannabe
9:39 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
Morning Folks.....Looks to me like my chances (Tally/Big Bend Area)for some substantial rain from that "low" in the Gulf went poof overnight....But, there's a 60% shot at the normal afternoon pop-up showers so I'll see what happens in the afternoon....That area around 5N 33W (in the ITCZ) looks interesting this am....Seems too low for development but it will "moisten" the road for a little bit as it is otherwise pretty dry out there in the MDR right now....
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1047. CybrTeddy
1:45 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Wow, the EPAC is certainly below average. Only on the B Storm. Were currently Above Average, we don't usually see a storm till July, and we had already Arthur.
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1046. TerraNova
8:43 AM EST on June 27, 2008
1042. TampaSpin 8:28 AM EST on June 27, 2008
There is still a Low pressure spin about 100 off shore the west coast of Florida.....due west of Hernando County


That's most likely an eddie caused by rising convective currents, like the one we saw yesterday. Buoy/Surface observations don't show a circulation and the surface charts and 500mb heights don't indicate that a trough is forming in the area.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
1045. SBKaren
6:38 AM PDT on June 27, 2008
Sure looks like California could use some of the rain that the east coast is getting (midwest section too). Isn't it weird how sometimes you never get what you need, and then sometimes you get too much of a good thing. Just can't control that mother nature gal.

{poof}
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1044. TerraNova
8:33 AM EST on June 27, 2008
Morning everyone. The ECMWF, GFS, and CMC continue to predict tropical activity in the East Atlantic next week. None of the other models have caught on.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
1043. TampaSpin
9:31 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
The Low off the West coast of Florida should make lots of moisture coming to the SE panhandle.
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1042. TampaSpin
9:24 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
There is still a Low pressure spin about 100 off shore the west coast of Florida.....due west of Hernando County
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1041. Tazmanian
6:26 AM PDT on June 27, 2008
we have a new TS and that name is BORIS in the East Pacific i saw it on the navy site


has for 95E can you say RIP
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1040. Kibkaos
1:16 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
It looks like the Gulf may be waking up today. What do you guys think?
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1039. 69Viking
8:08 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1035. DestinJeff

Just a brief light shower, enough to wet the roads but not even enough to create any puddles. That sure was a nice cell that moved North through Niceville though, I saw it on radar. Maybe today.....
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1038. Drakoen
1:16 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Good morning everyone. I see the GFS is still calling for development in the EATL.
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1037. pearlandaggie
1:08 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
not a whole lot of vorticity associated with that patch over the yucatan...

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1036. TayTay
1:06 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
Navy site has 2E as Boris.
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1034. pearlandaggie
1:02 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
1033. we've been fortunate and had four or five rain days out of the last ten or so. it was really dry before then. i sure hope you guys get some of that moisture in the form of precipitation (as opposed to humidity!).
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1033. 69Viking
7:59 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
1032. pearlandaggie

I agree and the Fort Walton Beach area would be happy with it that's for sure. We've had a couple 60% chance of rain days now and no rain. Today is another 60% chance so I guess we'll see.
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1032. pearlandaggie
12:54 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
1031. i think your second supposition is more plausible! LOL
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1031. 69Viking
7:50 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
Good morning everyone! TGIF indeed!

So how long can all that convection continue to fire up near the Yucatan and the GOM before something finally says screw the odds and develops? Or better yet just moves far enough North to bring some rain to my portion of the NWF Panhandle.
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1030. pearlandaggie
12:47 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
NHC not expecting much of TD 2-E

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL 27/0900Z 12.0N 108.8W 25 KT
12HR VT 27/1800Z 12.4N 109.7W 30 KT
24HR VT 28/0600Z 12.7N 111.0W 35 KT
36HR VT 28/1800Z 13.0N 113.0W 35 KT
48HR VT 29/0600Z 13.5N 115.0W 35 KT
72HR VT 30/0600Z 13.5N 118.5W 35 KT
96HR VT 01/0600Z 13.5N 122.0W 30 KT
120HR VT 02/0600Z 13.5N 126.0W 25 KT

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

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1029. all4hurricanes
8:44 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
actually one of those invests became two-E WU just doesn't update that well so one invest and one Depression
the red circle is the invest notice the only other thing out there is the depression
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1028. kmanislander
12:42 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
good morning all

A nice flare up near 35 West but at the moment no vorticity at either the 850 or 700 mb levels.

Although the quikscat pass missed it given the vorticity readings in the upper levels I would not expect any type of a surface low at this time either. It is very low in latitude and embedded in the ITCZ. Probably a rain maker for South America.

There is an anticyclone to its immediate West so let's see what happens when it gets there, assuming the high is still around
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1027. seflagamma
8:40 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
good morning everyone!

Wow the EPac is active, 2 Invest and one TD? Thank goodness not a lot of land in the way for them to hit anytime soon.

How's our Atlantic wave coming along?
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1026. pearlandaggie
12:34 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
sun continues to be quiet....


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1025. Patrap
7:31 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
GOES IR Loop GOM Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
1024. pearlandaggie
12:25 PM GMT on June 27, 2008
different perspective showing the waves...

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1023. BahaHurican
8:23 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
To answer my own question and that of stoormfury/stormdude:

...TROPICAL WAVES...
A TROPICAL WAVE IS ALONG 21W/22W S OF 15N MOVING W AT 15-20 KT.
SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS A BROAD LOW TO MID LEVEL CIRCULATION
ASSOCIATED WITH THE WAVE. VERY LITTLE IN THE WAY OF DEEP
ORGANIZED CONVECTION WITH ONLY SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION S
OF 10N WITHIN 150 NM OF THE SRN HALF OF THE WAVE AXIS. THIS
CONVECTION IS MOST LIKELY EMBEDDED WITHIN THE ITCZ.

A WEAK TROPICAL WAVE IS ALONG 56W S OF 10N MOVING W AT 15-20 KT.
THE POSITION OF THE TROPICAL WAVE IS SUGGESTED BY THE MIMIC-TPW
PRODUCT FROM CIMSS AND PRIMARILY POSITIONED BASED ON
EXTRAPOLATION. SCATTERED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ARE FROM
6N-8N BETWEEN 54W-57W AND ALSO OVER SRN GUYANA IN ASSOCIATION
WITH THE WAVE.

A TROPICAL WAVE IS ALONG 88W S OF 21N MOVING THROUGH CENTRAL
AMERICA AT 10-15 KT. A BROAD LOW TO MID LEVEL CIRCULATION IS
EVIDENT ON SATELLITE IMAGERY NEAR 17N IN THE GULF OF HONDURAS.
SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION CAN BE FOUND PRIMARILY ON THE WRN
SIDE OF THE WAVE AXIS OVER THE YUCATAN PENINSULA...BELIZE AND
ADJACENT COASTAL WATERS.

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1021. TampaSpin
8:20 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
very impressive looking
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1020. Patrap
7:21 AM CDT on June 27, 2008
Its easy here.All the rules are above the comment box.
As the season ramps up and it gets busy in Here,
Expect a Lot of "boing"!

If ya get my drift.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
1019. DaytonaBeachWatcher
8:22 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
Thats a wave passing over the yuc and then the boc
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1017. BahaHurican
8:19 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
Is this that last Twave that went through the ECar last weekend, or has that already gone through to the EPac?

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1016. BahaHurican
8:15 AM EDT on June 27, 2008
1013. DestinJeff 8:10 AM EDT on June 27, 2008

. . . it is the comments that are excruiating sometimes.


Yeah, that part's true. I think people are getting a bit better about the tone of their comments, though.

That, or all the trolls are being fended off by WunderYakuza's troll gate . . .
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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.

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