DISCUSSION: As Northern California experienced wildfires that burnt at a devilish pace, the smoke from these fires impacted lives and events farther south. The smoke drifted heavily to the south because of a strong ridge of high pressure aloft which brought a northerly flow, which picked up the smoke and transported it southwards. A subsidence inversion at about 3000 to 5000 feet also influenced the situation by keeping the smoke trapped at lower pressure levels.
The smoke from the wildfires was very noticeable in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) had issued daily Spare the Air alerts during the event and forecasted the air quality to be unhealthy for the entire Bay Area until about October 18th. School districts have issued statements that students will not be outside for Physical Education classes as well as recess. In addition, the California Interscholastic Federation’s Central Coast Section, San Francisco Section, and Oakland Section made decisions to postpone many athletic contests due to the health concerns affiliated with the smoke. Football was heavily affected by the sections’ decisions as a full weekend of games have been postponed to the end of the season, which, then pushed the playoffs back a week. Visibility was also affected at most airports at various parts of the week including San Francisco International where there were delays around 90 minutes and longer. In addition, there have been reports that ash has fallen from the skies to land on cars and buildings across parts of the Bay Area especially in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.
The Bay Area was not the only area affected by the smoke. The smoke had also reached the Central Valley region including Fresno. The smoke had much less of an effect although visibilities dropped at times to 1 mile in certain locations as well as some athletic events getting cancelled. However, they had fewer days of heavy smoke due to an off-shore flow from the northeast which kept the smoke out.
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© 2017 Meteorologist JP Kalb
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.”
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ⓒ 2017 Meteorologist Brandie Cantrell