Thursday, August 6, 2015

You'll Be Hearing A Lot More About Wildfires Over The Next Two Months

Wildfire near Clearlake, California this week
Photo by Noah Berger/EPA  
It seems like wildfires iin the western United Staters have been in the news constantly over the last couple weeks.

You're going to hear a LOT more about the fires.

As expected with the West Coast drought and all, wildfire season is already ridiculous. It usually peaks out there from late August into October, coincidentally the peak of the hurricane season on the East Coast.

While the Atlantic Ocean remains extremely quiet in the hurricane department, the wildfires keep burning like crazy.

The New York Times notes there that as of Monday, state and local firefighters responded to 5,500 wildlfires this year, which is 1,200 more than at the same time last year.

As of Monday, 180,000 acres had burned, which compares to about 87,600 through the same time last year, the Times says. 

The current biggie out west, a gigantic one burning north of San Francisco, has burned close to 40 homes already.  

That one is now partly under control, thanks to a bit of rain, higher humidity and lighter winds

Another fire in Oregon shut down Interstate 84 in the eastern part of the state, says television station KTVB in Boise, Idaho. 

As is the case in the California fire, you'll hear that a little rain or humidity is helping crews battle a particular fire, so the crisis will appear to be over.

But the drought in California and elsewhere in the west has been long and deep. You might get sprinkles of rain here and there, to put a temporary damper on new fires. But things are so dry that the little sprinkles of rain will quickly evaporate, the wind will pick up and the humidity will drop.

From there, you get another round of horrible fires.

Something called dry lightning is responsible for a lot of these fires, and will be responsible for plenty more the rest of the summer and fall.

Here on the East Coast, lightning is usually accompanied by thunderstorms with drenching rains. Out west, you can get thunderstorms with very little rain. So lightning strikes and sets fire to forests, but there's not much in the way of rain to put out that fire, so pretty soon you have a new, big blaze on your hands.

Meanwhile, there's really no chance of any soaking rainstorms until later in the autumn.

Here's hoping that El Nino does indeed drop a lot of rain on California over the coming winter, though there's no guarantee of that. Plus, El Ninos can make places like Washington State drier than normal.

We'll see.

But with all those people living in or near the woods in the western third of the United States, I fear we'll lose a lot of other houses to wildfires in the coming weeks.

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