Discussion: With 12 active fires as reported by CalFire it is no surprise that residents and travelers in the Southern California region have growing concerns regarding the reach of the current wildfires. Of major concern is the Thomas Fire, having burned 237,500 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
Severe fire weather has continued in the area as crews are fighting to increase containment beyond 25%. Reviewing the synoptic picture, we see that the United States is dominated by several key features which are impacting the continued devastation of this fire and the 11 others in the immediate area. With a large ridge in the West coast and high-pressure system placed seemingly strategically to the north with a strong low in the upper mid-west this allows the feeding of the Santa Ana winds in the Southern California region. These winds couples with warmers than average December temperatures and extremely low-relative humidities are making this a head on fight for fire personnel.
Earlier this month California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency as these fires threaten Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino and other cities which included threats to the 405 and other freeways that are the backbone of the Southern California commute. Delays were initially issued for buses servicing the Los Angeles (LAX) and Van Nuys General Aviation (VNY) airports, but have been lifted. Additionally, no aircraft delays have been reported in correlation with fires however it is expected that increased traffic throughout the region may pose delays in arrivals to the airport. With regional airports such as San Luis Obispo (SBP), Fresno (FAT), and Monterey Regional (MRY), these will provide the much-needed safety net for any issues that may arise in diversion situations for LAX and VNY.
For more information on local wildfires and aviation concerns visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© Meteorologist Jessica Olsen