Fire in the Heat

July 29, 2016

california fire-natoDamp-gray early Friday here on California’s north coast, seemingly the morning-norm nowadays, a way-contrast with recent afternoons of clear, bright skies and warm temperatures.
Locally, however, the word, ‘warm,’ doesn’t at all necessarily mean ‘hot‘ — the NWS says we could top 70-degrees today, but I doubt it. Enjoy-ability (and chill factor) depends on the wind, those sea breezes set the real flavor of the moment along the shoreline.

Weather apparently is in location. Although we’re still foggy-moist right now, just a short distance inland and ‘warm‘ becomes ‘hot.’
And in this era of drought, too, comes the wildfire problem.

Down south, a couple of big fires, one north of LA, the other near Big Sur, that one a whopper — the Soberanes Fire in Monterey County by last night was up to 29,877 acres, and only 15 percent contained.

(Illustration: A ‘Firenado,’ found here).

Along with those burn spots, as of this morning there’s about a dozen decent-sized wildfires still active in California, with about 4,000 firefighters statewide working to get a handle on them. A rundown/list can be found at Patch, and this:

“We usually don’t see [this many fires] until later in the summer,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynnette Round told Patch on Wednesday.
“But we are in the fifth year of a drought…it’s just a recipe for disaster when you have high winds and high temperatures.”

And to make matters worse, the situation — like a lot of other shit — is only going to get worse.
Heat waves coast-to-coast, last month the hottest June ever, and 2016 set to become the hottest year ever (third in a row), the climate is ripe for fire.
Seemingly another indication — from Climate Central yesterday afternoon:

None of the fires have been among the worst or largest wildfires the state has seen in recent years, but they’re part of a dire global warming-fueled trend toward larger, more frequent and intense wildfires.
The number of blazes on public lands across the West has increased 500 percent since the late 1970s, said LeRoy Westerling, a professor studying climate and wildfire at the University of California-Merced.
The outlook this summer is sobering: Wildland fire potential for most of coastal California and the Sierra Nevada Mountains is above normal and is expected to remain that way through October, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The wildfire forecast follows a major heat wave in California, where the temperatures soared above 120°F (48.9°C) in some parts of Southern California.
The region is seeing a significant warming trend. Each decade since 1970, average summer temperatures have warmed about 0.45°F (0.25°C).
The worst of the fire season in Southern California may be yet to come, said Hugh Safford, a U.S. Forest Service ecologist based in Vallejo, Calif.
“The most dangerous fire conditions occur from the end of September to December, when Santa Ana winds from the desert interact with the driest fuels of the season after five to six months of drying,” he said.
“I would expect an active fire season, and critical conditions in the fall.”
Westerling said 140,000 acres have burned across Southern California this year — a figure that amounts to nearly four times the five-year average for annual acreage burned in an entire wildfire season in the region.
Global warming’s fingerprints can be clearly seen on this year’s fire season in California, where the state’s extreme drought is entering its fifth year and record-breaking heat has baked the region.
“Climate change has exacerbated naturally occurring droughts, and therefore fuel conditions,” said Robert Field, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The worse the drought, the more of a tinderbox forests become.

And rain…


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