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Thu, 21 Feb 2019
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Here's how rare it is to have large California wildfires burning in December

The Thomas Fire, California
© Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times
The Thomas Fire reaches the 101 Freeway north of Ventura Wednesday evening.
There are at least six active wildfires burning in Southern California right now. That's nearly the total of all large December wildfires from 2000 to 2015, according to Cal Fire statistics.

The map below shows active fires as of noon, Dec. 6.

California wildfires map

If you look at the statistics below, they show a mere seven California fires that burned more than 300 acres when totaling December numbers from 2000 to 2015. The second lowest months were January and February with 11 such wildfires.

Comment: See also: 'Out of control' Southern California wildfire explodes as growing blazes force 27,000 to flee

Nearly 200,000 people have been told to evacuate the California wildfires. The Thomas fire has burned at least 90,000 acres. The Creek fire has burned at least 12,600 acres and the Rye fire destroyed at least 7,000 acres. The Skirball fire covered 475 acres as of Wednesday evening. So far the Thomas fire has destroyed at least 150 structures and the Creek fire has destroyed at least 30 structures.

More than 1,800 firefighters have battled the erratic Thomas fire, which is just 5% contained, according to the latest update by Cal Fire. The Creek fire is also 5% contained and the Skirball fire is 10% contained. Little Mountain Fire is now 100% contained.

This youtube video shows drivers heading down the 405 freeway, where they met giant flames from the several fires burning in Southern California.

Here's a downright scary look at what California drivers were faced with driving to work:

Keep in mind that right now is the 'wet season' in California, which is why December wildfires are so rare, yet no rain has arrived.

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Oppenheimer Ranch Project Report: US West coast firestorm albedo grows - Shishaldin Volcano alert

SoCal Wildfires: Los Angeles, Ventura declare state of emergency as 200 000 evacuate.


'Out of control' Southern California wildfire explodes as growing blazes force 27,000 to flee

California wildfire Dec 2017
© David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG
Within minutes a home on Hillrose street in Sunland has burned to the ground at the Creek fire Tuesday.
Ferocious fires tore through Southern California on Tuesday, burning massive stretches of land in a matter of hours and forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.

As firefighters in Ventura County grappled with an explosive blaze northwest of downtown Los Angeles, others across the region confronted additional fires that burned during the day and forced more evacuations. Authorities issued ominous warnings of more dangers to come during a "multiday event" across the area, as weather forecasters said the region faces "extreme fire danger" through at least Thursday due to intense Santa Ana winds and low humidity that could cause the fires to grow rapidly.

The wildfires are the latest grim chapter in a brutal year for California, coming just months after deadly blazes in the state's wine country killed dozens of people and razed thousands of buildings.

The biggest fire Tuesday was in Ventura County, where a small blaze quickly went out of control and spread across more than 50,000 acres by the afternoon. The fire - which burned an area nearly as large as Seattle - stretched into the city of Ventura, home to more than 100,000 people.

"The prospects for containment are not good," Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a news briefing as the fire was beginning its aggressive expansion. "Really, Mother Nature's going to decide when we have the ability to put it out."

Comment: See also: Raging wildfire threatens hundreds of homes in Ventura County, California; 1,000 households told to evacuate


Raging wildfire threatens hundreds of homes in Ventura County, California; 1,000 households told to evacuate

The 10,000-acre wildfire, known as the Thomas Fire, burned dry brush after erupting earlier in the evening in Ventura County (pictured)

The 10,000-acre wildfire, known as the Thomas Fire, burned dry brush after erupting earlier in the evening in Ventura County (pictured)
A raging wildfire has threatened hundreds of homes near Los Angeles as 1,000 households are told to evacuate.

Residents have been forced to leave their homes and one motorist was killed desperately trying to flee the rapidly-growing fire.

The 10,000-acre wildfire, known as the Thomas Fire, burned dry brush after erupting earlier in the evening in Ventura County, 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

More than 150,000 homes were without power and at least two structures were destroyed, media reported.


An update: Sunspots a la Cyclic Catastrophism

Sunspot Cycles
© NAOJ/Nagoya University/JAXA
Fig. 1 Fifty years of constant Sun observation.
This post is a response to "Variation of the Solar Microwave Spectrum in the Last Half Century", Masumi Shimojo et al. Astrophysical Journal, Volume 848, Number 1.

The abstract states:
"... we found that the microwave spectra at the solar minima of Cycles 20-24 agree with each other. These results show that the average atmospheric structure above the upper chromosphere in the quiet-Sun has not varied for half a century, and suggest that the energy input for atmospheric heating from the sub-photosphere to the corona have not changed in the quiet-Sun despite significantly differing strengths of magnetic activity in the last five solar cycles."
See Figure 1 above.


Forest fires scorch northern Italy, hundreds forced to flee

© Luca Perino
Switzerland and Croatia have sent aircraft to help Italian firefighters battle forest fires that have scorched parts of northern Italy and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people.

Authorities in Piedmont and Lombardy are seeking to have states of emergency declared for their regions, which have been hit by an abnormally dry summer, little autumn rainfall and winds that have helped spread the flames.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti held a crisis meeting Monday with emergency authorities in Turin, capital of the hard-hit Piedmont region, and said evidence points to arson as the cause for at least some of the fires.

The fires have contributed to a thick cloud of choking smog that has covered northern Italy for days.


15 billion-dollar natural disasters have already impacted the U.S. this year; 2017 tied for second-most all-time which was last year

Billion dollar US weather disasters
© The Weather Channel (screen capture)
A new record for the number of billion-dollar natural disasters in the United States may be set this year, with 15 such events already confirmed through September.

There were 12 billion-dollar weather disasters that began during the first half of 2017, and hurricane season has brought three storms that resulted in massive damage, including Harvey, Irma and Maria. The official damage costs are not available yet for these storms but are expected to be billion-dollar weather disasters, according to NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

Tornado and severe thunderstorm events have made up the largest share and have added seven billion-dollar weather disasters to the list.

Two flooding events are also on the list: one in Missouri and Arkansas in late April early May and one in California in February. On the other side of the precipitation spectrum, the ongoing drought in Montana and the Dakotas has already reached more than $2 billion.

Rounding out the list is the severe March freeze in the Southeast that was preceded by unusually warm temperatures, resulting in $1 billion in damage to crops, and the wildfires in the Northwest.

In addition to the economic impact, these 15 events have resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people.

Through September, 2017 is now tied with 2016 for the second-most billion-dollar disasters in a year, according to NOAA's database, which dates back to 1980. The year with the highest number of billion-dollar weather disasters is 2011, which had 16.

Comment: As well as the financial cost, the psychological toll of natural disasters needs to be considered also. See also:

New FEMA Director calls for Americans to develop "a true culture of preparedness" - but no one is listening


European wildfire numbers explode in 2017: Season average for hectares burned increases four or five-fold

wildfires europe
The number of forest fires in the EU has more than doubled so far this year, according to figures obtained by Euronews, affecting an area twice the size of Luxembourg.

There have been 1,671 blazes so far in 2017 - a huge increase on the 639 the bloc saw annually on average over the previous eight years.

Comment: As you'll see in the charts below, the data suggest it's more like a 4 or 5-fold increase in the number of wildfires, not a 2-fold increase.

Experts have blamed climate change for the rise, saying it has extended the traditional wildfire season and increased the frequency of blazes.

They have warned Europe's forest fires will rage more often in the future and engulf new areas.

Portugal, Italy and Croatia have all been hit this summer amid high temperatures and lower-than-normal rainfall.

Comment: But other parts of Europe have been hit with the reverse: low temperatures and above-normal rainfall, yet wildfires rage there too. Even Greenland! This is a snapshot from mid-October:

It comes after 64 people died in a forest fire in Portugal, with many victims caught in their cars as they tried to flee in June.

Comment: See also: Deadly wildfires sweep across Portugal and northern Spain killing at least 39 (UPDATE)


Terrorist arsonists blamed for wildfires in Portugal

Portugal wildfires

Raging fires run along a mountainside near Braga in northwestern Portugal. Wild fires have broken out in Santa Marta, Sameiro, Taipas and Braga.
A man who drove through raging wildfires in Portugal says luck was on his side after he filmed himself escaping the deadly blazes ravaging the region.

Wildfires have killed at least 39 people across Portugal and Spain as hundreds of blazes were fanned by strong winds caused by a hurricane, authorities said on Monday.

Thirty-five people - including a one-month-old baby - in Portugal have died and dozens have been injured, most of them firefighters, during fires raging in central and northern areas of the country.

Portugal's civil protection service said as of Monday morning, firefighters were fighting 145 separate blazes across the country, dozens of which are considered to still be serious.

In the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, authorities said that four people had died, two of them trapped in a car, as a result of blazes that were threatening inhabited areas prompting the evacuation of thousands.

Authorities in both countries said that the strong winds from Hurricane Ophelia in the Atlantic Ocean and high temperatures fanned the fires.

Investigations were also focusing on human and criminal causes, with political leaders accusing 'terrorist arsonists' of starting the blazes.


Deadly wildfires sweep across Portugal and northern Spain killing at least 39 (UPDATE)

Firefighter in Vigo, Galicia
A firefighter tries to extinguish a forest fire in Zamanes area, in Vigo, Galicia, northwestern Spain

Hurricane Ophelia's strong winds are blamed for fanning flames of deadly forest fires in Portugal and Spain

At least six people have been killed and around 25 others injured - mainly firefighters - during Portugal's worst day of the year for forest fires.

Around 500 blazes were reported in the country's central and northern regions where a state of emergency has been declared.

Soaring temperatures of up to 36 degrees celsius have been recorded - extraordinary for mid-October.

More than 100 fires were still burning late Sunday night with more than 5,000 firefighters battling the flames.

The worst outbreak of Portugal's fires in 2017 killed 64 people in June, with many dying on a road as they fled the rampant flames in their cars.

Wildfires are also ravaging north west Spain where at least three people have been reported killed and two more are missing.


Update (17 Oct.)

At least 39 people have died in wildfires raging through parched farmlands and forests in Portugal and Spain. Authorities said they were still battling 60 blazes in Portugal and another 50 in Spain.

Portugal's government has asked for international help, as it still tries to recover from its deadliest fire on record in June. It has declared a state of emergency in territory north of the Tagus river, which is about half of its land mass.

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa declared a public emergency Monday, describing the fires as "devastating." He announced that all necessary means would be mobilized to fight the blazes. This has been a "dramatic year," he said, and promised action to prevent such large-scale fires in the future.

Flames ripped across countryside left tinder-dry by an unusually hot summer and early autumn, fanned by strong winds as remnants of ex-Hurricane Ophelia brushed the Iberian coast. Officials in Portugal and Spain said arsonists had started some of the blazes.

In June, 64 people died in a huge forest fire in central Portugal. The government has been criticised for a slow, inefficient response and a lack of fire-prevention policies.