Dry lightning hits on the increase in California


Here’s the record of 66,000 hits one day in June

Lightning strikes are rare in Northern and Central California — so infrequent as to be overlooked by science.

But the subject has been of urgent interest since August 2020, when a massive complex of thunderstorms thrashed its way across the state, dropping not rain but thousands of bolts of “dry lightning”: cloud-to-ground strikes without accompanying rainfall exceeding one-tenth of an inch (2.5 millimeters). The effects were predictable, immediate and immense: wildfires, 650 in total, burning upward of 2 million acres…

“Our team knew dry lightning happens in California during the summer,” said the paper’s author, Dmitri Kalashnikov of Washington State University at Vancouver. “But we didn’t know that it would be almost half (46 percent) of all lightning strikes in 34 years that were dry…”

“The higher elevations, like the Sierra Nevada, they get most of their dry lightning strikes in July and August, sort of during the monsoon season, and then by September and October, their dry lightning mostly goes away,” Kalashnikov said. “Whereas, in contrast in the lower elevations … it’s kind of an ongoing dry lightning season. So, whether you’re in June or July or August or September, you get about the same amount of dry lightning strikes as the other months…”

And this is just the beginning of Professor Kalashnikov’s study. I imagine something similar results in similar environments around the country, around the world. Just raises my curiosity bump even more.

Suspect in 5,000-acre wildfire was burning used toilet paper


Felicia Fonseca/AP

A 57-year-old man arrested on suspicion of sparking a 5,000-acre forest fire in Arizona told deputies he was burning used toilet paper Saturday while living in the Coconino National Forest…

Less than an hour after the fire was reported, a sheriff’s deputy spotted a Chevrolet pickup driving away from the area. The deputy pulled over the driver, who initially said he was camping when he spotted the wildfire, according to charging documents filed in court.

The driver, later identified as Matthew Riser of Louisiana, then said he had burned used toilet paper with a lighter at noon the day before and placed it under a rock. He told the deputy he didn’t think the fire would smolder all night and did not see the “No campfires” signs posted throughout the area…

Riser showed a deputy where he had burned his toilet paper near the campsite. The deputy found human feces under a rock.

Riser was booked on suspicion of building an illegal fire, living on U.S. Forest Service land and possessing a controlled substance, according to federal charging documents.

Correct spelling of his last name should be L-O-S-E-R.

Another damned wildfire!

Another damned wildfire starting up this morning…

Usual for me to search the horizon whilst walking. Starting off, this morning at 11:20AM MDT…there was nothing showing over on the Sangre de Cristo range. We’re west of Santa Fe. The Sangres are east of Santa Fe.

Coming back along our fenceline 10-15 minutes later, this is what I saw. At first, the column of smoke at the apparent starting point was columnar, 3-4 times higher than you see it here. Then, the North wind must have picked up over that side of the county and it blew out and south the way you see it.

No fun, taking iPhotos like this, believe me.

Flames and Fury


Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg

Tom Houghton (Media editor)

Despite the abundance of incredible photography that has crossed my desk this year, I struggle to think of a moment more moving than the one captured by Bloomberg photographer Konstantinos Tsakalidis on the island of Evia, Greece. This woman’s anguish as the raging wildfire draws closer to her house is heartbreaking. The colour and composition reminds me of the painting The Scream by Edvard Munch. No matter how many times I look at it, it remains both beautiful and upsetting.

This was excerpted from “The Best Science Images of 2021”

Smoke forecast for mid-June

It is only mid-June and we are already looking at large-scale wildland fire smoke issues.

These maps predict the distribution of smoke at 6 p.m. MDT, Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

Vertically integrated smoke depicts all of the smoke in a vertical column, including smoke high in Earth’s atmosphere and can produce red sunrises and sunsets. In some cases where it is only at high altitudes it may not be very noticeable on the ground.

Near-surface smoke refers to the smoke that will hover within 8 meters (26 feet) of the ground—the kind responsible for burning eyes and aggravated asthma.

No matter how you slice it, it ain’t any fun. The worst part of summer, every year.

Fire season coming to Southern California and no clouds in sight!


Not getting any better in New Mexico either

❝ June Gloom season is upon Southern California. For as long as anyone can remember, that’s meant clouds wrapping the landscape in a milky white cocoon as cool, moist ocean air known as the marine layer moves inland. But as with everything in our world, this is now changing.

June — and summer as a whole, it turns out — is becoming less cloudy in parts of Southern California. Great for your garden perhaps, but new research shows the trend is also increasing the risk of wildfires, which are on everyone’s mind after last year’s record-setting Thomas Fire. The findings could add a key variable for firefighters and meteorologists to look at to gauge how bad fire conditions will get in a given year.

❝ The research…uses a novel approach of looking at sky observations taken continuously at airports and military airfields from San Diego to Santa Barbara since the 1970s, and linking them up with weather observations. Specifically, the researchers were looking for the occurrence of stratus clouds, which tend to hang out lower as part of the marine layer and keep things cool.

The data shows that stratus cloud cover from May-September has declined 25-50 percent across a number of sites in Southern California owing to the growing urban heat island and climate change. All this extra heat causes the clouds to dissipate or form in areas with less of a cooling impact…

❝ All that extra sunlight coming in is causing more evaporation. Figuring out how much the ground and vegetation are drying out is the key to understanding the relationship between cloud loss and fire conditions.

Interesting article whether you live in wildfire country or not. One more change to the negative side of climate equations. Ignored by flat-earthers and their ilk.

Saving the life of a creature in danger of being burned alive

❝ More than 100,000 acres in Southern California have been burned by wildfires in the last week, with some 27,000 residents being forced to flee areas like Bel Air and the Getty museum. More than 1,000 firefighters are now battling the biggest blaze, named Thomas, which is far from under control…

But as more and more people are forced to flee their homes, there are some uplifting stories coming out of the destruction. In Ventura County, as residents fled Thomas Fire on Highway 1, a passing news crew was able to capture footage of a man doing something pretty amazing at the side of the road…

AFAIK, the young men wouldn’t give his name, didn’t care to be interested by the TV crew.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

The West Is burning — How much blame goes to climate change?


Click to enlargeJohn McColgan, USDA

❝ So far this year, wildfires have scorched nearly 5 million acres in the U.S. That sounds like a lot, but compared to 2015, the season has been downright tame. Last year at this time, more than 9 million acres had already burned, and by the end of the year, that number would rise to more than 10 million — the most on record. In 2015, the Okanogan grew into the largest fire Washington had ever seen, breaking a record set just the year before. California recorded some of its most damaging fires, including the Valley Fire, which torched around 1,300 homes. More than 5 million acres burned in Alaska alone. But that’s not to say that this year has been without drama. For instance, California’s Soberanes Fire, which was sparked by an illegal campfire in July, is still smoldering. The effort it took to contain that blaze is believed to be one of the most expensive — if not the most expensive — wildfire-fighting operations ever.

❝ With wildfire, such superlatives have, paradoxically, become normal. Records are routinely smashed — for acreage burned, homes destroyed, firefighter lives lost and money spent fighting back flames. A study published earlier this year found that, between 2003 and 2012, the average area burned each year in Western national forests was 1,271 percent greater than it was in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Like the extreme hurricanes, heat waves and floods that have whipped, baked and soaked our landscape in recent years, such trends raise the question: Is this what climate change looks like?

❝ John Abatzoglou and his co-author, Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, estimate that human-caused climate change was responsible for nearly doubling the area burned in the West between 1984 and 2015. If the last few decades had been simply dry, instead of some of the hottest and driest on record, perhaps 10.4 million fewer acres would have burned, they say.

❝ Wildfire is particularly responsive to temperature increases because heat dries things out. It sucks moisture from twigs and needles in the forest the same way it does from clothes in a dryer, turning this vegetation into the kindling, or “fine fuel,” that gets wildfires going…

To shore up confidence in their estimates, they repeated the analyses in their study using eight different fuel-aridity metrics and then averaged the results. “One thing that gives me confidence is that all eight of these essentially lead to the same conclusion,” Williams said. “All eight have been increasing. All correlate well with fire.”

❝ In the end, they found that more than half of the observed increase in the dryness of fuels could be attributed to climate change. Fuel aridity, in turn, correlated very closely with fire activity for the time period they looked at — it explained about 75 percent of the variability in acreage burned from year to year. “That means that it is a top dog,” Williams said. “Correlation is not causation, but the correlation is so strong that it’s very hard to get a relationship like this if it’s not real.”

Williams added that as aridity increased, wildfire activity increased exponentially. “This isn’t a gradual process. Every few years we’re kind of entering a new epoch, where the potential for new fires is quite a bit bigger than it was a few years back.”

RTFA for more detail. Once again, science and maths point the finger at responsibility. Not only for cause; but, for the refusal to offer any constructive solutions. Congressional conservatives are so set in their commitment to stopping any change brought by our nation’s first Black president they’re willing to burn in a hell of their own creation.

Yes, of course, they won’t. Neither will the contributors to their demented campaign. The voters who keep them in office? That may be a different story.

Utah law lets authorities take down drones at wildfires


Click to enlarge

Utah’s governor has signed into law a measure that makes the state the first to let authorities jam drone signals and crash the devices specifically for flying too close to wildfires.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s office announced Monday that he signed the law over the weekend, just days after lawmakers met in a special session to pass it and a handful of other bills.

State Sen. Evan Vickers, who co-sponsored the law, says it technically allows firefighters and law enforcement to shoot down drones, but they probably won’t do that because it’s too difficult. Instead, authorities are expected to use technology that jams signals and crashes drones.

Utah passed the law after a drone recently was sighted five times over one wildfire, causing firefighters to ground their aircraft and slow their work.

But, but, but…some idjit was seriously getting some dynamite images and video for his YouTube account. Might’ve gone viral and got him a real job.