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Fire

At 230,000 acres, California's Thomas fire is now the fifth-largest wildfire in the state's history

Thomas fire, California
© Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
A huge plume of smoke rises north of Ventura as seen Sunday afternoon from the Ventura pier, as the Thomas fire threatens parts of Carpenteria and Montecito.
Santa Barbara County was under siege from the Thomas fire Sunday as fire crews fought to keep the destructive blaze from the region's picturesque beach communities.

Authorities said the out-of-control blaze had scorched 230,000 acres by Sunday evening, making it the fifth largest wildfire in modern California history.

The fire grew by more than 50,000 acres during the day, triggering new evacuation orders for about 5,000 county residents, including those east of Mission Canyon and north of Highway 192. An additional 30,000 residents west of Mission Canyon to Highway 154 and south of Highway 192 to the county line were told to prepare to leave.

As the fire grew Sunday, containment dropped from 15% to 10%, authorities said.

The blaze has destroyed 524 structures and damaged 135 in the city of Ventura. In the unincorporated areas of Ventura County, 266 structures have been destroyed, while 56 were damaged. The fire consumed six structures on Sunday in beach town of Carpinteria, authorities said.

Santa Ana winds, aided by extremely low humidity, pushed the Ventura County fire over the Santa Barbara County line Saturday night. The winds that bedeviled fire crews from San Diego to Ojai last week were gusting at speeds of up to 35 mph, fire officials said.


Comment: Other related articles:


Fire

Deadly and destructive winter wildfires are 'the new normal' says California governor

Thomas fire, California
© Noah Berger/AP
The Thomas fire burns through Los Padres National Forest near Ojai, California
A week of destructive fires in Southern California is ending but danger still looms.

Well into what's considered the wet season, there's been nary a drop of rain. That's good news for sun-seeking tourists, but could spell more disaster for a region that emerged this spring from a years long drought and now has firefighters on edge because of parched conditions and no end in sight to the typical fire season.

"This is the new normal," Gov. Jerry Brown warned Saturday after surveying damage from the deadly Ventura County fire that has caused the most destruction. "We're about ready to have firefighting at Christmas. This is very odd and unusual."


Even as firefighters made progress containing six major wildfires from Santa Barbara to San Diego County and most evacuees were allowed to return home, predicted gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph) through Sunday posed a threat of flaring up existing blazes or spreading new ones. High fire risk is expected to last into January.

Overall, out-of-control fires have destroyed nearly 800 homes and other buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced more than 200,000 people to flee flames that have burned over 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) since Monday. One death, so far, a 70-year-old woman who crashed her car on an evacuation route, is attributed to the fire in Santa Paula, a small city next to Ventura where the fire began.

Firefighters were on high alert for dangerous fire potential even before the first blazes broke out. On Dec. 1, they began planning for extreme winds forecast in the week ahead.


Fire

State of emergency declared in San Diego as yet another California inferno burns homes

Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire, in Bonsall, California
© Mike Blake / Reuters
A firefighter is working on extinguishing the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire, in Bonsall, California, US, December 7, 2017
The Lilac Fire in San Diego North County has burned two people, charred 2,500 acres and destroyed 20 structures. The blaze erupted after several other fires raged throughout Southern California and even into West Los Angeles.

Lilac Fire

The Lilac Fire was first reported at 11:20am Thursday on the southbound Interstate-15 freeway, near the connector to the State Route 76 freeway in North County, about 45 miles northeast of San Diego. State Route 76 has since been closed to traffic, according to KNSD.

The fire prompted California Governor Jerry Brown (D) to declare a state of emergency in San Diego County. The National Weather Service (NWS) said a wildfire risk in San Diego County is extreme Thursday, due to dry vegetation and Santa Ana conditions.

Humidity was in the range of 5-15 percent, and any new fires will have a high probability of becoming big in a short period of time, according to the US Forest Service, KNSD reported.


Comment: Here's how rare it is to have large California wildfires burning in December


Fire

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

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

Fire

'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


Fire

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.


Info

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.

Fire

Forest fires scorch northern Italy, hundreds forced to flee

fire
© 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.


Dollar

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