New Fire Danger Threatens to Worsen Most Disastrous Wildfire Season in California History by Dr. Jeff Masters | Category 6 | Weather Underground

GR: This year’s fire season isn’t over. Southern California will have hot wind and high temperatures for the next few days. The article below from the Weather Underground has information about current conditions and past comparisons. This event calls attention to the deepening environmental crises global warming is causing. While we should be focusing in disaster planning, Congress is wrangling over how much more of the forest timber companies can cut in the name of wildfire management. If you are unfamiliar with this issue, I highly recommend the article by George Wuerthner that is introduced here.

“A record-breaking heat wave will build over Southern California over the weekend and peak on Tuesday, bringing triple-digit temperatures that could set marks for the hottest temperatures ever recorded so late in the year in the Los Angeles area. Accompanying the heat will be the notorious Santa Ana winds, which will bring a multi-day period of critical fire danger, Saturday through Tuesday.

“According to NOAA, the hottest temperatures ever recorded after October 23 in Southern California (along with the Weather Underground forecast for Tuesday) were:

  • 105°F Riverside, 10/28/1915 (WU forecast for Tuesday: 100°F)
  • 101°F LAX Airport, 11/1/1966 (WU forecast for Tuesday: 96°F)
  • 101°F Longbeach, 11/1/1966 (WU forecast for Tuesday: 100°F)
  • 100°F Downtown Los Angeles, 11/1/1966 (WU forecast for Tuesday: 101°F)
  • 100°F Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena, 10/26/2003 (WU forecast for Tuesday: 99°F)
  • 100°F San Diego, 11/4/2010 (WU forecast for Tuesday: 91°F)
  • 99°F Bakersfield, 10/27/1906 (WU forecast for Tuesday: 90°F)

“The heat wave and Santa Ana winds will be caused by a large near-record-strength dome of high pressure expected to settle in over the Great Basin, a few hundred miles northeast of Los Angeles. The difference in pressure between this high-pressure system and lower pressure over Southern California will drive gusty northeast winds over Southern California. Since these winds will originate over desert areas, they will be hot and dry. As the air descends from the mountains to the coast, the air will get hotter and drier, due to adiabatic compression—the process whereby the pressure on a parcel of air increases as it descends, decreasing its volume, and thus increasing its temperature as work is done on it.

Figure 1. Fire weather outlooks for Saturday, October 21, issued by the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center at midday Friday (left), and into next week (Days 3-8) issued late Thursday (right). The Day 3-8 outlooks do not indicate risk level, but forecasters noted: “A prolonged period of at least moderate offshore winds and critical fire weather conditions will be likely across much of southern CA from Day 3/Saturday through Day 6/Tuesday.” Image credit: NOAA/NWS/SPC.

A four-day period of critical fire danger

“As of 11 am EDT Friday, fire weather conditions are predicted by the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center to be in the “elevated” to “critical” range Saturday through Tuesday across the coastal mountain ranges and foothills north of the Los Angeles Basin (fire weather alert levels come in three levels of severity: “elevated”, “critical”, and “extreme”.) Wind gusts of 35 – 50 mph will be capable of causing rapid spread of any fires that might ignite, though these winds will not be as strong as the ones that created the deadly firestorm in California’s wine country earlier this month. The fire danger increases through Tuesday, as the heat builds, and relative humidities below 10% are expected in many areas. Conditions at night will not help firefighting efforts much, as temperatures will only cool down to the mid-70s, with low humidity and strong winds. By Wednesday, the heat and fire danger will begin to diminish as the Santa Ana winds die down and cooler, more humid air moves in, but temperatures will still be in the mid-90s in the Los Angeles area. Such a long period of extreme heat and Santa Ana winds mean that any fires that do ignite will be difficult to control and will potentially burn a large area.” –Jeff Masters (New Fire Danger Threatens to Worsen Most Disastrous Wildfire Season in California History by Dr. Jeff Masters | Category 6 | Weather Underground).

Figure 3. The number of acres burned in California has been increasing since 1970, due to a warmer and drier climate, in combination with fire suppression policies that have left more fuel to burn. As we wrote in our October 13 post, human-driven climate change and development patterns are making destructive firestorms more likely. The average length of the wildfire season in the western U.S. is more than 3 months longer than in 1970, largely due to climate change, according to Climate Central.

Wildfires Rage Through Portugal and Spain, Kill at Least 39

GR:  Fire, storm, flood, and drought disasters are growing. Perhaps they will soon become so commonplace as to go unreported. Of course, when we see something coming at us like the fire in the photo below, we need the reports. Hurricane Ophelia is partly responsible for the spread of these fires.

“Hundreds of fires in both countries are being fanned by winds from Hurricane Ophelia in the north, currently barreling towards Ireland, and encouraged by extremely dry terrain from a scorching hot summer in the region.

“Sixty-four people died in a wildfire in Portugal in June, and the country has declared a state of emergency in the northern region. “We are facing new (weather) conditions” due to climate change, Portuguese Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa told the press, as she also referenced the fires blazing in California. “In an era of climate change, such disasters are becoming reality all over the world.”

Source: Wildfires Rage Through Portugal and Spain, Kill at Least 39

Firestorm: 1,500 Structures Destroyed as Massive Wildfires Blaze Through Northern California

GR: Now begins the age of extremes that everyone can see. No longer just statistical trends in numbers and sizes of floods and fires, global warming-spurred events are moving on stage and the lights are coming up.

Here are Robert Scribbler’s thoughts on the current California fires.

“Heat and drought and fire. A common litany these days for California — a state that has, year after year, been wracked by a series of unprecedented climate extremes.

“After a brief respite this winter, northern parts of a state reeling from woes related to human-caused climate change again settled into drought this summer. Having received near record amounts of rain during winter — enough to wreck the spillway at the Lake Oroville Dam — vegetation sprang anew. This rain-spurred growth then subsequently dried — developing widespread fuels for fires.” –Robert Scribbler (Firestorm: 1,500 Structures Destroyed as Massive Wildfires Blaze Through Northern California | robertscribbler).

OMB Director Mulvaney Responds to Western Caucus Calls for Forestry Action | Congressional Western Caucus

GR: There is a misconception in Congress that managing hazardous fuels means that we should remove restrictions that prevent timber companies from clear-cutting the forest. True, clear-cutting eliminates forest fires, but it does not remove the fuels. Perhaps our Congresspeople see themselves as wise Walruses, but instead of asking “. . . why the sea is boiling hot–and whether pigs have wings”, they wish to ask if they can stop the forest from burning by insuring there is no forest to burn.

The Western Caucus should leave the few restrictions the pro-business Forest Service has been able to scrape together alone and focus their attention on future budget problems. As our climate warms, fires will grow larger and more frequent. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking about diverting some of our military spending to protecting our land.

“Today, 17 Congressional Western Caucus Members released statements applauding Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s October 4, 2017 letter to Speaker Paul Ryan requesting that Congress pass forestry management reform and disaster relief packages.” Source: Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ),  OMB Director Mulvaney Responds to Western Caucus Calls for Forestry Action | Congressional Western Caucus. 

GR: Here’s a better informed discussion of logging and wildfire:

Forest Fire, Bonner, Montana

“Montana GOP Senator Daines recently published a simplistic and misleading guest commentary on a wildfire in the Washington Post.
In that editorial, Daines, like many other misinformed logging proponents claims more logging would reduce large wildfires and he blames “environmental extremists” for delaying the forest reduction projects.

“Most of the wildfires burning under low to moderate fire weather conditions either self-extinguish or are easily controlled.

“The majority of all acreage burned in any summer is the result of very few wildfires that are burning under extreme fire weather.

“Indeed, the bulk of all wildfire acreage burned is the result of less than 1% of all fires, and indeed, in a typical year, 0.1% of fires are responsible for half or more of the acres reinvigorated by wildfire. These wildfires burn under what is termed “extreme fire weather” conditions.

“Many studies show a correlation between extreme fire weather and extreme wildfires. When you have high temperatures, low humidity, drought, and in particular wind, you cannot stop a blaze. And they will burn through any forest reduction, prescribed burning, and other forms of “active forest management” that are designed to slow or halt such blazes.” –George Wuerthner (Continue reading:   http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2017/09/24/response-to-senator-daines-washington-post-commentary-on-wildfires/