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Worsening Weather to Feed Monstrous Thomas Fire Through Sunday

It shouldn’t be happening in typically wetter, cooler December. But, due to human-forced climate change, it is.

The Thomas Fire, at 242,000 acres, is now the fourth largest fire in California history. Alone, it has destroyed 900 structures — a decent town’s worth gone up in smoke. And today it threatens pretty much all of Santa Barbara’s 62,000 buildings. For future days promise conditions that could expand the monstrous blaze into the largest fire ever seen for the state.

(Persistent western ridge formation is an expected upshot of sea ice retreat in the Arctic. A feature that will result in a drier, warmer, more fire prone California if the trend toward sea ice melt and global warming continues.)

Firefighters battling the blaze have faced insane odds to manage a herculean feat — achieving 35 percent containment as blowtorch like Santa Ana winds consistently billowed through the region over the past two weeks. These winds have been both abnormally strong and persistent. And they’re run over dry lands through a season that is typically known for its more prevalent rainfall — not the expanding drought we see today.

Given these presently very abnormal conditions, fire officials don’t expect to achieve full 100 percent containment for three more weeks. And that’s with over 8,144 firefighters on the ground assisted by 1,004 fire engines and 27 helicopters.

(The 2012 to 2017 California drought was slaked by rains last winter. However, it appears to have returned in force with southern portions of the state again facing an extended dry period.)

Present weather conditions for California are extraordinary. A persistent ridge of high pressure has hovered over the region. And this high has helped to spike local temperatures, speed a re-emergence of drought, and drive very powerful Santa Ana winds through the region. The high formed as sea ice advance in the Chukchi and Bering Seas far to the north lagged. Open water that is usually ice covered at this time of year radiated more heat into the local atmosphere — providing a slot of warmer air that assisted this drought, heat, and wind-promoting high pressure ridge in forming.

The intensity of these highs, influenced by climate change, out west has consistently risen into the 1040+ hPa range. Highs that have been juxtapposed by a strong low further south near Mexico. And a steep pressure gradient between these two persistent weather systems has helped to drive the very strong, fire-fanning, Santa Ana winds through the region. As the Thomas Fire blossomed last week, fire conditions achieved extremes never before seen in state history as those hot, dry winds roared over hills and through valleys.

(GFS model runs show the fire fanning Santa Ana winds strengthening through Sunday. Hat tip to Dan Leonard.)

Unfortunately, weather models for the next few days show this Santa Ana wind producing pressure gradient either persisting or strengthening. Today, this gradient is producing winds with gusts of up to 55 mph. By Sunday, the high over the Pacific is predicted to face off against a low over Northwestern Mexico. And the gradient between these two systems may further intensify these fire fanning winds. Wind speed and fire hazard are not expected to be as extreme as last week. But the re-intensifying winds will do firefighters no favors.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly to the long range picture, there is not even a hint of rain in the forecast through at least the next week. Dry, warmer than normal weather is expected to remain in place at least through that period. And hope for wetter, cooler weather has only begun to emerge in the longer range, less certain forecast.

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64 Comments

  1. Erik Frederiksen

     /  December 14, 2017

    An article this past summer titled “Greenland Is Still Burning, But The Smoke May Be The Real Problem”, mentioned unusually large fires burning on Greenland–perhaps peat– just 40 miles from the ice sheet, with winds blowing black carbon onto the ice.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/15/543406558/greenland-is-still-burning-but-the-smoke-may-be-the-real-problem

    Reply
  2. wili

     /  December 14, 2017

    It’s still early, but California’s snowpack is running far behind schedule so far–just 37% of normal.
    Continued warm and dry through at least Dec 30th.

    Reply
  3. coloradobob

     /  December 14, 2017

    For our friends overseas –
    Three Things That Wouldn’t Have Happened in 2016 without Climate Change
    Bob Henson · December 13, 2017

    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/three-things-wouldnt-have-happened-climate-change

    The site has been under assault all day by the troll army . Needless to say I’ve been working in the “Working in the Troll MIne”.

    Reply
    • Yeah, you and me both. I’m just on the other side of the curtain.

      The usual nonsense climate change denial, opposition to solutions, half truths, and huxterism gamut of:

      1. Fear technology, especially renewable technology.
      2. Climate doom is inevitable, so why do anything about it.
      3. It’s physics, but I’d rather not believe the climate scientists.
      4. I have the only real solution to climate change, which is worse than you could possibly believe, follow me.
      5. Don’t stop burning coal — loss of aerosol negative feedback will cook us.
      6. And my personal favorite — why believe Elon Musk, he’s just in it for the money… Followed by Elon Musk is being sued for not fulfilling his fiduciary responsibility (i.e. making money) so Tesla sucks.

      Reply
    • Troll army indeed , Painful to read through those comments and makes me appreciate this forum so much more . Thanks for your de trolling efforts Robert , must be frustrating work at times. , CoffeeCheers ! Have a great weekend .

      Reply
  4. coloradobob

     /  December 14, 2017

    The GOES 16 when on line today –

    Reply
  5. coloradobob

     /  December 14, 2017

    Goes 16 when online today.

    Reply
  6. coloradobob

     /  December 15, 2017

    How Greenland would look without its ice sheet.

    We’re screwed , it is a bath tub , not an island.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42260580

    Reply
  7. OT but one for DT. The not minor effect goes out to 2 miles, but what if you live downwind? Or where the underground water is headed downriver of the fracking site – your well could be contaminated a lot further out than that? And this is a relatively easily measured effect over less than a year. What about exposure to non-infants measured in years and decades? And what about a small, heavily populated island like the UK. I can’t believe they are even considering it.

    Hydraulic fracturing negatively impacts infant health, study finds. Dec 13, 2017. Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171213143703.htm
    Summary:
    Health risks increase for infants born to mothers living within 2 miles of a hydraulic fracturing site, according to a new study.

    Reply
  8. coloradobob

     /  December 15, 2017

    This is a beauty , the BBFF The Butt Based Fact File.

    They reach around and pull crap out ot their ass.

    Reply
  9. Greg

     /  December 15, 2017

    Fire apparatus engineer Cory Iverson, 32, died while fighting one of the top five largest fire’s in California’s history, fire officials said.

    Iverson is survived by his pregnant wife Ashley and their 2-year-old daughter, officials said. His body was brought from the fire line to the city of Ventura on Thursday evening.
    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/firefighter-killed-battling-powerful-california-wildfire-n829886

    Reply
    • Light a candle for Cory tonight. He died as a hero in the fight to save Santa Barbara. Were it not for him and his 8,000+ fellows risking their necks on that hellish line, so much more would have already been lost.

      Reply
  10. Greg

     /  December 15, 2017

    What is alive, swims near Greenland in this video below, and was around when Henry the VIII reigned? This likely over 500 year old shark, who might remind us of how short sighted we are.

    https://weather.com/science/nature/video/this-is-worlds-oldest-living-vertebrate

    Reply
    • So things like this make me feel young and full of wonder. Thanks, Greg.

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  December 19, 2017

      “…might remind us of how short sighted we are.”

      Ironically, most Greenland sharks are at least partially blind due to a parasitic copepod that attaches itself to their corneas.
      And the shark’s age is determined by measuring the level of radiocarbon in its eyes.

      Reply
  11. coloradobob

     /  December 15, 2017

    Ralph Parnanen

    Some where a bang of hammers has increased in morals , and clear ideas. Because your head fell out of the bag.

    Reply
  12. coloradobob

     /  December 15, 2017

    All my adult life, I have tried to write the perfect bumper sticker copy. I did it tonight –

    Is the Earth 31.5 Billion Dog Years Old ?

    Reply
  13. wharf rat

     /  December 15, 2017

    Now on the HBO schedule…

    ‘Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution’ follows filmmaker Jamie Redford on a colorful personal journey to discover the leading edge of clean energy across the U.S. Unlikely entrepreneurs in communities from Georgetown, Tex. to Buffalo, NY reveal pioneering clean energy solutions that are creating jobs, turning profits and making communities stronger and healthier. Reaching beyond a story of technology and innovation, his discoveries underscore issues of human resilience, social justice, embracing the future and finding hope for humanity’s survival. Don’t miss the premiere, December 11 on HBO.

    Reply
  14. wili

     /  December 15, 2017

    Thanks, rob, for keeping a focus on this. Heaven help us all!

    Heaven help the man who kicks the man who has to crawl…

    Reply
  15. Syd Bridges

     /  December 15, 2017

    Maybe a little OT, but yet another straw in the hay bales in the wind of Global Warming consequences. This is on the stability, or not, of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

    “New research published on Dec. 14 in Nature and led by The University of Texas at Austin and the University of South Florida found that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet may not be as stable as it seems. In fact, the ice sheet has a long history of expanding and shrinking — a finding that indicates the ice sheet may contribute substantially to global sea level rise as Earth’s climate warms. The new results came from geophysical and geological data collected during the first-ever oceanographic survey of East Antarctica’s Sabrina Coast. The glaciers in this region may be particularly susceptible to climate change because they flow from the Aurora Basin, a region of East Antarctica that mostly lies below sea level.”

    see
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171213143650.htm

    Reply
    • At somewhere between 5 and 6 C warming pretty much all the ice in both Antarctic and Greenland melt triggering approx 240 feet of sea level rise long term. Greenland itself can’t make it if warming hits above 3 C for any significant period. 1.5 to 2.5 C appears to be a threshold for more rapid sea level rise in that both Antarctica and Greenland appear to be significantly impacted in those ranges. 1 to 2 C warming appears to be enough to trigger 10-20 feet of sea level rise. And that’s the bottom range.

      Present energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere implies approx 1.9 C warming by 2100 and 3.8 C warming long term. Even mid range fossil fuel burning scenarios get us to 3 C this Century and 6 C long term.

      Unless we swiftly halt fossil fuel burning by replacing that energy source with renewables, enable methane to rapidly fall out, and begin the long process of drawing down excess CO2, we are looking at significant and harmful sea level rise. Probably on relatively more immediate timescales than initially identified by climate science.

      We still have a narrow path in which we could avoid 2 C this Century, or at least have a shot at it. But we need to move very fast to peak carbon emissions soon and then to rapidly reduce those emissions to zero and following that to draw down that excess carbon. The swiftest and least disruptive way to achieve this is to first rapidly replace fossil fuel burning infrastructure and machinery with swift-build renewables. This halts the major source of the damage — carbon emission — in its tracks. Following this, atmospheric carbon capture by a combination of land management, conservation, forest regrowth, potential biofuel capture, better farming practices, and more widespread use of carbon capture materials and enhanced weathering can assist in pulling that excess CO2 out of the atmosphere over long time scales.

      Because we already have so much carbon pollution and because the large glaciers around the world are already starting to destabilize, we don’t have much time to act. Some damage is probably already on the way. But maybe we can limit sea level rise to 4-15 feet total over the long term (300 year +) and 3-4 feet this Century if we are really on the ball and get our act together.

      But if we don’t get our act together, it’s going to be a hell of a lot worse than that long term and we’re going to risk seeing enough sea level rise this Century to sink a good number of the world’s coastal communities (3-12+ feet this Century and 8-35 feet or more over the 300 year horizon).

      http://mashable.com/2017/12/13/sea-level-rise-could-be-double-previous-estimates-climate-change-study/?utm_term=0_9c8bdfd977-e2976f1799-99377301&utm_content=buffer18efa&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#q0iO.Uk0vSqG

      Reply
  16. utoutback

     /  December 15, 2017

    Last week my CA based Home Owner’s insurance carrier notified me that our policy would not be renewed because we live in a forested area. I’m sure they have suffered some massive losses this year. We have found another carrier.

    Reply
  17. coloradobob

     /  December 15, 2017

    I give this to all here, , I mined the past. but I was seeing the future. Now this will look a little bit crazy. I have a gift to all of you. Please take it , And do good. A way to build cheap.

    Friday, March 16, 2012
    The Monarch Way Station
    I bought the seeds and paid the fee, to become member of the Monarch Watch The Monarch Way Station project.

    http://peggychapmansgarden.blogspot.com/

    Colorado Bob’s Hopi Blue Corn Experiment
    http://cbhopibluecornexperiment.blogspot.com/

    Colorado Bob’s Solar Oven
    http://cbsolaroven.blogspot.com/

    Now, I will need your help. The last thing before I die, and like all above I’m not
    here to Puitin your money See You all tomorrow.

    Reply
  18. I have discovered Alexa My new routine when I get up is to say”Alexa,play “Happy” Then dance w the song and wake up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM

    Reply
  19. Greg

     /  December 15, 2017

    The renewables revolution is reaching eveywhere thanks to its clear economic advantages. Alberta (Tar Sands Capital Of The World) Invests In 600 MW Of Wind Power. Original tender expanded by 50% when the prices came in so low:

    https://cleantechnica.com/2017/12/14/alberta-tar-sands-capitol-world-invests-600-mw-wind-power/

    Reply
  20. Greg

     /  December 15, 2017

    Follow the money. How about these apples? Bosch looking at a €20 billion investment to create 200 GWh of production capacity by 2030 in batteries.
    https://electrek.co/2017/12/15/bosch-investment-battery-cells-production/

    Reply
  21. wili

     /  December 15, 2017

    Was embedded with a crew on the Montecito side of the fire photographing a 1+ mile long firing operation. Left at 315am. The burnover allegedly occurred on the Fillmore side of the fire later in the morning. The fire is going crazy right now in Rose Valley. #thomasfire #lodd

    Reply
    • The darn thing has expanded by 10,000 acres since yesterday. Also worth noting that red flag warnings for this region are now the longest-running in state history.

      Reply
  22. PlazaRed

     /  December 15, 2017

    Looking at the map in this link, its very difficult to imagine how some of this fire can easily be contained. The whole area looks like a tinder box with little or no access on the ground.
    Thanks to the commenter’s for some of the interesting links in this blog.

    http://google.org/crisismap/google.com/2017-ventura-county-wildfire?hl=en&llbox=34.805%2C33.649%2C-116.444%2C-119.959&t=TERRAIN&layers=5%2C16%2C17

    Reply
  1. Worsening Weather to Feed Monstrous Thomas Fire Through Sunday — robertscribbler « Antinuclear
  2. Investors are Fleeing Fossil Fuels in Droves | robertscribbler
  3. Investors are Fleeing Fossil Fuels in Droves | RClimate

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