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Why California faces a dangerous

wildfire season this year


Wednesday 14 May 2014
Earlier this week, 20,000 homes in and around San Diego, California,
were evacuated as a fast-moving wildfire spread through the area.
Driven b high temperatures and strong winds, fire and countr officials said that
more than a s!uare mile of land had been blackened.
"o homes have so far been damaged or destroed b #uesda$s fire, upon which
hundreds of firefighter, assisted b water-dropping aircraft are battling the
flames.
California is about to enter the peak of its fire season, and state officials are
concerned that it could be particularl intense and dangerous this ear, due to
much of the state being in e%treme drought.
California the drought-ravaged state
&ack in 'anuar, ( wrote a blog about the how California was suffering from
e%treme drought, following the driest ear on record.
During 20)*, California had +ust *2., per cent of the rainfall that it would normall
e%pect to see, leaving fresh water reservoirs with a fraction of their normal
reserves.
#he situation become so bad that California -overnor, 'err &rown, declared a
drought emergenc across the state.
.s of )/ 'anuar, 02.1 per cent of the state was in e%treme drought and ,2.2
percent in severe drought, according to the 3S Drought 4onitor.
(n recent months, the intensit of the drought has increased. .s of 0 4a, 10.1 per
cent of the state is in e%treme drought and 20 per cent in severe drought.
What has caused it to be so dry?
California relies on rain and mountain snow moving in off the 5acific 6cean, driven
b the +et stream 7 the fast-moving ribbon of air five miles up in the sk that forms
and steers areas of low pressure.
8owever, during the last ear 7 especiall during autumn and earl winter 7 the
+et stream has been persistentl stuck much further north than usual, resulting in
a blocking area of high pressure forming over the state.
#his has kept the weather largel dr, as the usual train of low pressure sstems
travelled further northwards into western Canada, taking the rain and snow there.
Why so much concern for this year?
9ith California suffering so badl from drought, much of the land and vegetation
is tinder-dr and is ripe for burning if a wildfire breaks out.
#he state receives nearl all of its annual rainfall in the autumn and winter
months, so tpicall, little rain falls during late-spring and earl summer.
Soaring summer temperatures combined with the drness of the landscape, will
onl elevate the risk of wildfires further.


Summer heat will also bring the risk of dr thunderstorms. #hese are
thunderstorms that produce thunder and lightning, but no rain that reaches the
ground.
.s the air in the lower part of the atmosphere is so dr, the rain that falls from
the clouds high in the sk evaporates long before reaching the surface.
#he lightning strikes from these dr thunderstorms can set fire to dr vegetation,
which can then spread !uickl when fanned b brisk winds.
6ne possible factor that ma help California$s drought situation later in
the summer is the formation of El "ino 7 a warming of surface water
temperatures in the central and eastern 5acific 6cean.
9hen such events take place, California tends to get above average rainfall, with
a train of moisture flowing in off the ocean.
8owever, until then, there$ll be a heightened sense of awareness about the
dangers that wildfires ma bring.
- See more at: http://logs!channel4!com/liam-dutton-on-weather/california-faces-dangerous-wildfire-
season-year/"#0#$sthash!%&u0%W1'!dpuf