Extreme Temperature Diary- Monday August 31st, 2021/ Main Topic: Double Trouble…Reports From The Other U.S. Climate Crisis Tragedy…The Caldor Fire

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary 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: Double Trouble…Reports From The Other U.S. Climate Crisis Tragedy…The Caldor Fire

Dear Diary. Even during the darkest days of dealing with the aftermath of Katrina in 2005 the United States was not under siege from two simultaneous life threatening climate crisis large incidents. Fast forward to 2021, and that’s exactly what we see…historic fires in California while Hurricane Ida was rampaging through the central Gulf Coast. Thankfully levees have held due to great work by engineers post 2005, so loss of life in Louisiana will be relatively minuscule compared with Katrina, but damage will mount into the hundreds of billions. Engineers and forest rangers can do nothing about wildfires, though, so what’s going on in California is nearly completely controlled by Mother Nature, who is getting more agitated each year that carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere.

The latest conflagrations threatening lives are named the Caldor and Dixie fires, which are burning very close to Lake Tahoe, one of the most iconically beautiful communities in the United States nestled in California’s Sierra Mountains. Today for our main topic here is a Los Angeles Times report on those fires:



Caldor and Dixie fires are the first to burn from one side of the Sierra to the other

By: Alex Wigglesworth, Hayley Smith  

Faced with drought conditions and rising temperatures from climate change, California has hit many grim fire milestones in the last few years.

a close up of smoke: Flames consume multiple homes as the Caldor fire pushes into South Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Monday. (Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images)

© (Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images) Flames consume multiple homes as the Caldor fire pushes into South Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Monday. (Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images)

In 2020, California saw the most destructive fire season on record. But 2021 is shaping up to be another one for the record books, with the conditions producing fire behavior never seen before.

The Dixie fire is now the second-largest in state history and still burning out of control.

The 190,000-acre Caldor fire is much smaller but now threatens more than 33,000 homes in the Lake Tahoe Basin, an area many residents believed was fairly well protected from fires.

Two fires make history

Chief Thom Porter, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that before this year, no fire was known to have burned from one side of the Sierra to the other.

The Caldor and Dixie fires have now achieved that feat.

“Two times in our history and they’re both happening this month,” Porter said. “So we need to be really cognizant that there is fire activity happening in California that we have never seen before.”

The Caldor fire has also changed the view of fire risk in Lake Tahoe.

“Historically, we’ve used terms such as ‘anomaly,’ ‘unprecedented’ or ‘extreme’ to describe the wildfires that we have seen burn throughout the state over the past 10 to 20 years,” Cal Fire spokesman Chris Anthony said Monday evening. “These terms are no longer appropriate given the clear trends associated with drought, changing climate and un-resilient forest stands. Unfortunately, these factors contribute to the resistance to control that we are seeing with the Caldor fire.”

A rock fortress

A granite ridge that overlooks the Tahoe basin was always seen as protection against a fire sweeping into the region. Officials say it could have some mitigating effects on the fire, officials said.

Unlike lower elevations populated by hot-burning manzanita brush, ponderosa pine and cedar trees, the ridge is characterized by fir trees and more spare, open areas that can help slow the fire’s spread.

But with powerful winds Monday, embers were flowing and that set brush on fire closer to the basin.

“They have long looked to that granite wall as what’s going to keep fire out,” said Crystal Kolden, a fire scientist at UC Merced. “But this is a new world with climate change, and that basically is no longer a viable last line of defense.”

Worst-case scenario

So far, the Caldor fire has primarily fed on vegetation, Kolden said; but if the fire makes it into nearby communities, that will rapidly change. Homes and other structures would not only provide additional fuel for the fire, but also release dangerous chemicals into the air, along with “tremendous embers.”

“It’s an Alpine community with log cabins, and a lot of those structures were built in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s,” she said. “So you’ve got this potential for it to really start jumping from building to building to building, and it’s just a completely different beast and they can’t fight it.”

Wildland fires can typically burn up to about 1,500 degrees, Kolden said, while structure fires can burn closer to 3,600 degrees.

“It’s so dangerous, it’s so toxic, and there’s so much heat,” she said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Here are more notes on California’s fires:

Here are more notes on the Ida:

Here is more climate and weather news from Tuesday:

(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”

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