DISCUSSION: It’s a seemingly normal scene for those in California to see the onslaught of wildfires in the dry seasons of the year. 2017 was not shy to such and is still proving is has more to show its residents in terms of widespread fire activity. Of late much of this activity is attributed to the high winds and low humidities driving fires into some of the most sensitive areas, recently the Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties.
Of concern are the fires across Northern California, nearly 22 in total that have currently burned 170,000 acres with minimal containment in sight. 17 people are confirmed deceased due to the spread of wildfires this week with 11 attributed to the Tubbs fire burning between Calistoga and Santa Rosa at 28,000 acres. CalFire estimates 3,500 structures have been destroyed by the fires and evacuations continue as winds are expected to shift this evening.
There will be no relief in sight as wildfires continue to spread in California. The Pacific Northwest is expected to see a weak frontal passage bringing some precipitation however no rainfall is expected for the fires in Northern California. This frontal passage will bring higher northerly winds especially in the higher elevations with decreased humidity. Winds as high as 40 knots can be seen in forecasts. Areas of Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties are currently under a red flag warning.
For more information on California’s fires visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
Nearly 180 square miles of California’s wine country have been destroyed from wildfires. Over 2,000 structures have been destroyed causing massive evacuations in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. At least 15 people have died from the fires while another 150 people are still missing. Approximately 99,000 people are without power in the area. California’s Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties. The fire started late Sunday night due to a series of lightning strikes rapidly growing from just 200 acres to over 68 square miles in less than 24 hours. Due to low surface dewpoints and strong winds, the fire was able to grow very quickly. Winds were measured at 60 mph in some areas of California. Unfortunately, dry conditions will persist at least through the next 5 days. Reports are noting that fires are 0% contained as of currently. Smoke from the fires is expanding into the surrounding areas that could cause difficulty breathing and low visibility. People traveling through or residing in the area should remain vigilant and heed the warnings. People should refrain from adding to the fires such as starting new fires.
The following is a statement from NASA describing the image above:
“NASA's Aqua satellite collected this natural-color image with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, MODIS, instrument on October 09, 2017. Actively burning areas (hot spots), detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red. Each hot spot is an area where the thermal detectors on the MODIS instrument recognized temperatures higher than background. When accompanied by plumes of smoke, as in this image, such hot spots are diagnostic for fire. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC.”
Come back for more updates on the Californian wildfires here!
ⓒ 2017 Meteorologist Brandie Cantrell
Discussion: Red Flag Warnings have been issued for much of Central Oregon, as very warm temperatures and a chance for scattered thunderstorms over the area is present. With the chance of scattered thunderstorms, the lightning strikes could cause new fire starts. Thunderstorm activity is expected over the Cascades and eastward tonight. Although the thunderstorms will diminish tomorrow and Friday, there will be an increase in the wind speed. These gusty winds combined with lowered humidity will be a wildfire risk. During a red flag warning, it is extremely important to heed local burn bans, properly discard any cigarettes, and avoid activities that cause open flames or sparks. With the dry vegetation, warm temperatures, gusty winds, and low humidity it doesn’t take much to spark a wildfire! To learn more about fire weather and fire weather education, be sure to click here!
©Meteorologist Shannon Scully
DISCUSSION: Well into the summer season, California is seeing its typical dry weather also bringing concern and fear as wildfires become a part of daily norms. Southern California of interest as recently nearly 3000 are evacuated due to the Whittier fire in Santa Barbara County.
Reports from Cal Fire have indicated that 8 homes and 12 outbuildings have burned, all due to a fire having initiated in the Santa Ynez Mountains. According to the County of Santa Barbara, as of 0700 PDT, 18,015 acres have burned since the initial fire on July 8th, 2017. This fire is said to be 36% contained. Onshore winds are expected to increase in the vicinity of this fire which may decrease temperatures however dry yet warm air is expected to remain in the region. In particular, temperatures in the Santa Ynez Mountains may see highs in the low 100’s with overall low relative humidities the Whittier fire a very dangerous situation for those in the immediate area.
According to Cal Fire, 95% of California’s wildfires are caused by people, these fires and others in California are still currently pending investigation. Contributions to the spread of the fire also are increased by current weather conditions which include; increased temperatures, decreased humidities, drier than normal to drought-like conditions, and wind, which can account for the additional oxygen, a fuel to push the fire through land.
In San Luis Obispo county, residents are still observing the prevalent Alamo fire that has decimated 28,687 acres with a containment of nearly 95%. Burning since July 6th, this fire has consumed 1 home and damaged another with minimal fire activity expected continue with this fire as crews monitor the situation.
Of additional interest is the Garza Fire, in Kings County, burned 48,403 acres with a 72% containment. This fire has burned 1 minor building with no structures currently threatened. There are currently over a dozen fires in the state of California, for more information on wildfires, stayed tuned to the Global Weather and Climate Center for more information!
© Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
California, State Of. "Cal Fire." Cal Fire. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2017.
"Whittier Fire Information and Updates." Whittier Fire Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2017.
DISCUSSION: Over the past 24 to 36 hours, there were increasingly more favorable conditions for greater and more widespread fire weather hazards across portions of Southern California. More specifically, there were strengthened southwesterly to southeasterly winds which brought drier air into the region which made dry grasses and regional shrubbery more susceptible to ignition. Despite there being fire weather hazards issued for the greater Southern California region, a wild fire did break out across parts of Santa Barbara County, California. As shown in the images above, the aforementioned wild fire was relatively large based on its size relative to the bright lights located to the south of the fire (i.e, lights emanating from the city of Los Angeles, California). In addition, note how well-dispersed the smoke plume was off to the southwest from the point-source of this wild fire. This southwesterly smoke plume dispersion adds a secondary concern factor to the situation based on the fact that particles within dispersing smoke plumes can impact the operations of aircraft engine turbines.
To learn more about other fire weather stories, be sure to click here!
©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: With Spring in full force and winter well behind us by nearly 3 months Californians have slowly seen the decrease in precipitation that once became a consistent being within their forecast in late 2016-early 2017. While the persistent rains brought greenery, decreasing drought conditions, and increase water levels in reservoirs, it also brought flooding, mass destruction to US Highway 1 in Big Sur due to landslides (leaving residents and businesses stranded amidst their busiest tourist months to come).
However, as we move into the summer months bringing mild weather, coastal fog it’s a real possibility that the inevitable drought will reappear in the state. Residents, scientists, and researchers alike share a common belief that the 5-year drought to have plagued the state isn’t necessarily over despite the unprecedented rain received in the past 8 months. With drought and persistent weather conditions that enhance drought, there is increase fire danger particularly as the state transitions into what are climatically drier months.
Often with fire related dangers the National Weather Service can predict such conditions that may be optimal for fire behavior. These include the issuance of a Red Flag Warning or a Fire Weather Watch.
According to the National Weather Service a Red Flag Warning indicates, “that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now,… or will shortly,” typically within the next 24 hours. While a Fire Weather Watch suggests that “weather conditions could result in critical fire weather conditions which are expected to develop in the next 12 to 48 hours, but not more than 72 hours.
CalFire has recently states its alerts to residents for the state as dry conditions linger in the state. Conditions that you may wish to be apprised of are low relative humidity, strong winds, and even lightning strikes, the combination of these can add fuel to warm dry conditions to allow for wildfires to thrive. Please visit CalFire for current fire weather warnings and watches, safety, prevention and more!
For enhanced information on fire weather do visit the National Weather Service for a variety of data displays.
For more information on local fire weather and drought conditions visit the Global Weather and Climate Center.
© Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
Wildfires continue to burn across the Southeastern United States (Credit: National Interagency Fire Center, US Fish & Wildlife Service Southeast Fire)
Discussion: It has been a warm and dry start to the spring season in the Southeastern US. The above average temperatures have it feeling more like summer than spring. Along with those abnormal temperatures is the lack of any moisture in the region. Currently, the largest fire burning in the United States is the West Mims fire in Georgia. This fire is currently 18% contained was caused by a lightning strike and has burned 152,147 acres. With temperatures expected to rise into the 90s and relative humidity being in the low 20s, the risk for new fire starts is increased. In the state of Florida, seven different fires continue to burn. The largest of those seven is the Cowbell fire located in the Big Cypress National Preserve. It has burned 21,866 acres and is currently 75% contained. The majority of the other six Florida fires are between 70-90% contained.
High pressure is expected to build over the Southeast this week, which won't provide much help for containing these fires. This hot, dry weather combined with the drought in the area that has persisted over the southeast has not helped lower the risk for wildfires. To learn more about fire weather and fire weather education, be sure to click here!
~Meteorologist Shannon Scully
Late Thursday, Apr. 20, 2017, two wildfires of unknown origin broke out in the Golden Gate Estates area of east Naples, FL. Although fire fighters jumped into action quickly, dry and windy conditions allowed the fire to spread. By this morning, the combined blazes had grown to about 2,500 acres … To read the full story, click here - http://www.weatherworks.com/lifelong-learning-blog/?p=1291
© 2017 H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS
To learn more about other high-impact weather events affecting North America, be sure to click here.
Discovered on Mar. 30, a relatively small brush fire in South Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve (eastern Collier County) grew slowly during the following week. By Apr. 8, the Cow Bell fire (so named, because it is near the Cow Bell Strand within the Big Cypress National Park – Fig. 1) had consumed roughly 600 acres. On Sun., Apr. 9, thanks to an increase in easterly winds (and continued dry weather), the blaze exploded. By late Sunday, the blaze had consumed more than 8,000 acres… To read the full story, click here - http://www.weatherworks.com/lifelong-learning-blog/?p=1283
© 2017 H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS
To learn more about other high-impact weather events affecting North America, be sure to click here!
Australia Fire Weather Situation ! (credit: NWS Rural Fire Weather Service via Higgins Storm Chasing)
DISCUSSION: As a particularly strong high pressure system continues to dominate across many parts of central and eastern Australia, very serious fire weather conditions will remain in the place at least for the duration of this weekend. More specifically, this strong high pressure system is facilitating widespread hot and dry conditions across a large span of Australia. As a result of this hot and dry weather pattern in control across eastern and central parts of Australia, there is a legitimate threat for small campsite fires or light compost burning to ignite much larger fires even from the embers of localized fires landing on very dry grasses and so forth. Therefore, if you are living across central and/or eastern Australia, be sure to maintain a strong awareness of your surroundings and avoid use matches unnecessarily or burning anything outside of your home since it will have the potential to lead to much more serious and widespread fire weather issues. It is worth noting that despite the seriousness of this fire weather threat, there are some signs of breaks in the persistent high pressure system which will allow for some breaks in these hazardous hot and dry conditions!
To learn more about other high-impact weather events from across Australia and the South Pacific, be sure to click here!
©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz