Wednesday August 19th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Heatwave Beelzebub Causes Explosive Western Fires
Dear Diary. Once again we have the case of a severe heatwave leading to explosive and deadly wildfires. Those in association with my very first named heatwave, Beelzebub, get way out of hand in the northern California area last evening. It’s no wonder. The area already had been affected by drought. Add five consecutive days during the summer of record if not near all-tine record heat, and the region became ripe for life threatening conflagrations. We have seen this scenario play out in cycles over and over in California and much of the West over the last decade.
For much more detail on California’s recent wildfires here is a new Washington Post article by Andrew Freedman, Jason Samenow and Hannah Knowles :
California wildfire updates: Lightning-sparked blazes explode in size, prompt urgent evacuations
Fires come amid record-breaking, long-lasting heat wave with lightning strikes
A house burns in Napa, Calif. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
By Andrew Freedman, Jason Samenow and Hannah Knowles
August 19, 2020 at 8:28 a.m. PDT
Tens of thousands are under evacuation orders in California as more than two dozen large wildfires burn in the northern and central part of the state, with the most serious and urgent situation unfolding in the city of Vacaville, about 35 miles southwest of Sacramento. The city of 100,000 is under partial evacuation orders because of the advancing flames.
There, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, which has burned more than 46,000 acres in Sonoma, Lake, Napa and Solano counties, advanced into the community overnight and into the predawn hours, prompting urgent evacuations with social media reports of homes consumed by flames as residents fled.
The fires in Napa and Sonoma come just a few years after devastating fires there killed 22 in 2017 and wiped out numerous wineries.
Sparked by lightning strikes and intensified by record-breaking heat, fires have erupted all over the state, spewing large columns of smoke and fouling air quality
- The Hennessey Fire in Lake Solano County had prompted the order of a large evacuation zone Wednesday morning, with firefighters reportedly focused on getting people out rather than fighting the rapidly advancing flames.
- Evacuations were ordered overnight for the town of Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County, which has a population of about 5,000.
- The River Fire in Monterey County has consumed more than 4,000 acres, destroyed multiple structures and threatens over 1,000 more, prompting mandatory evacuations there, too.
On Tuesday, the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates federal firefighting efforts, was placed on its highest alert level. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency due to the fires on Tuesday as well.
California has been battling a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus for the past two months, and evacuations may complicate efforts to get the virus under control, experts say.
California suffers widespread areas of unhealthy air quality as smoke smothers state
Air quality levels in central California on Wednesday morning. (AirNow)
From Southern California through the Bay Area and Sacramento, the smoke emitted by the dozens of wildfires is compromising air quality.
Between the Bay Area and San Luis Obispo, the air quality index plummeted Wednesday morning. Some areas were experiencing very unhealthy and hazardous pollution levels, the most extreme on the federal government’s scale, designated by purple and maroon shades. The levels indicate a high risk of adverse health effects for all people.
The poor air quality is especially problematic for sensitive groups, including children, older adults and anyone with respiratory ailments.
The National Weather Service forecast office in San Francisco ran a model showing dense plumes of smoke dispersing over the state:
As the fires continue burning and emitting smoke, air quality is likely to remain compromised for days.
The bad air represents yet another public health challenge in California as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
By Jason Samenow
California’s heat wave and wildfires have ties to climate change
The scorching, unrelenting heat in the West and the ensuing fires are probably linked to climate change, based on studies to date. Climate research has consistently shown clear links between the severity, occurrence and duration of heat waves, like the one now gripping the West, and human-caused global warming.
- A 2018 study of a major heat wave in Japan, for example, found that it would’ve been nearly impossible in the absence of human-caused climate change.
- A 2019 study found the planet has entered a “new climate regime” with “extraordinary” heat waves that global warming is worsening.
Similarly, studies show that climate change is lengthening the fire season in the West and leading to larger blazes than would otherwise occur. The 2018 National Climate Assessment, which was published by the Trump administration, projected worsening heat waves and wildfires in the Southwest and West as climate change continues.
The exceptionally hot and dry conditions currently in the West are made possible by a significant ridge of high pressure, colloquially referred to as a “heat dome.” Air inside the system sinks and warms, while drying out and eradicating any widespread shots of rainfall.
On weather maps, a rare number appeared as a testament to how significant the heat dome is: 600. That describes the height in dekameters, or tens of meters, that the halfway point of the atmosphere’s mass is above the surface.
American model simulation of massive heat dome over the western United States on Monday.
When air warms, it expands. When it cools, a volume of air shrinks. An air mass this hot expands a lot, causing a column of air to grow and raising the atmosphere’s halfway point. With this particular system, that level is 6,000 meters — or about 19,700 feet — above the surface.
This level “represents a threshold that is coincident with record heat over the Western United States,” wrote Ryan Maue, a meteorologist who operates the website weathermodels.com, in a Twitter message.
Instances of heat domes exceeding this 6,000-meter level used to be rare but have increased dramatically in recent years. Maue examined data back to 1958 and found almost all of the high-powered heat domes have occurred since 1983 — with the overwhelming majority of them occurring since 1990.
“[T]he 6000-meter club ’heat domes’ are certainly becoming more frequent b/c of climate change, now a nearly annual occurrence,” he wrote in a Twitter message.
By Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow
LNU Lightning Complex fires have injured 4, destroyed 50 structures
As of 7 a.m. local time, four civilians have been injured in the LNU Lightning Complex fires in Northern California that forced urgent evacuations overnight in Napa and Sonoma counties. The blazes have already destroyed 50 structures, damaged 50 more and threaten 1,900 others.
The fires, believed to have been started by lightning strikes Monday, remain zero percent contained, according to an incident update from Cal Fire, the state fire agency.
Numerous roads have been closed in Napa and Sonoma counties. Nearly 600 people have been deployed in response to the complex, which consists of multiple individual fires, officials say. No first responders have been injured, according to Cal Fire, which notes that “air resources have been stretched thin throughout the region” given that so many blazes are competing for authorities’ attention.
By Hannah Knowles
Residents faced harrowing evacuations in Vacaville area
People fleeing the LNU Lightning Complex Fire threatening the Vacaville area shared harrowing stories Wednesday.
“We had to leave the car,” a woman identified only as Diane told Katie Nielsen, a reporter with KPIX 5, in a video posted to Twitter. She was still wearing a nightgown and had run nearly a mile to a main road, according to Nielsen.
“I got all these flames on me, I lost my shoe,” the woman said. “And I made it. God saved me.” It was a familiar scene for reporters who had covered California’s last few devastating fire seasons.
“This feels so horridly similar to what I felt when I was covering the Santa Rosa & Paradise fires,” Nielsen tweeted Wednesday morning, sharing a video of a home burning northwest of Vacaville, a community of 100,000 located southwest of Sacramento, against an orange sky. Sirens could be heard.
By Hannah Knowles
This same article has much more information and is quite detailed. Please read the rest linked below, which has a great timeline of events:
Other notes on Beelzebub:
Here are some of Wednesday’s “ET’s:”
Here is more climate and weather news from Wednesday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.)
Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”