Hundreds of Thousands of Acres Spared So Far This Year in California
The wildfire season of 2017 was heartbreaking for California, followed by another record-setting 2018 season.
It was also in 2018 that we saw the largest, most destructive, and deadliest fires in recorded history burn across the northern part of the state.
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) November 17, 2018
So far in 2019, it has been a different story.
From January 1 through August 1, there have been just under 3,000 wildfires across the Golden State.
This is compared to nearly 3,700 at the same time last year, sparing hundreds of thousands of acres.
Number of Fires and Acres:
|January 1, 2019 through August 4, 2019||2,971||22,949|
|January 1, 2018 through August 4, 2018||3,661||615,771|
|5-Year Average (same interval)||3,572||245,850|
|2019 Combined YTD (CALFIRE & US Forest Service)||3,487||45,364|
“We respond to hundreds of fires on a daily basis, which we consider our initial attack fire,” said Mike Mohler, Cal Fire Deputy Director of Communications. “95% of those at 10 acres or less. It’s that 5% that turn into those really large fires so really Mother Nature has been the big key factor in keeping the acreage down this year.”
The reason? Above average precipitation during the winter.
“We started out this last winter in pretty good shape as far as precipitation amounts and recovery with vegetation,” said Eric Boldt, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service Los Angeles/Oxnard.
“In the mountains, we had record snow pack especially during the month of February, and that really resulted in filling the reservoirs and replenishing a lot of the water we need for the rest of the season.
No…this is not the scene from a Hollywood feature. It's actually SNOW that's falling this afternoon in Malibu, CA! That's just off the ocean…so magical! #cawx You all must be excited to forecast this at the @NWSLosAngeles ❄️❄️pic.twitter.com/eAAhA7YsSH
— Meredith Garofalo (@GarofaloWX) February 21, 2019
Drought conditions have also significantly improved since last year, and you can see the substantial change in the Drought Monitor from the beginning of August in 2018 to 2019.
This is all thanks to effects from a weak El Nino.
“The pattern persists with this onshore flow keeping us rather moist, especially the humidities stay up a little more closer to the ocean and we have the onshore flow keeping the cooler temperatures in there,” Boldt said.
“Even the heat waves have been a little bit more to our east, we’ve not really had much of a monsoon season here in California.”
Visible sat images show a couple of eddies in low clouds along the coast. Dense fog will again affect the coastal waters tonight into Friday morning. #CAwx #SoCal #fog @elamarinelayer pic.twitter.com/yvuNTxDbLg
— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) August 15, 2019
And less extreme wind events have allowed firefighters to get their job done in a shorter period of time.
“When we have a wind driven fire, that’s not something we just stand out in front of and stop the head,” Mohler said. “We have to flank that fire so where we’re seeing less wind events, more precipitation, slower fire growth, and we’re able to get a handle on them much quicker.”
— CALFIRE/FresnoCoFire (@FresnoCoFire) August 10, 2019
But while it has been much quieter so far, you should still be prepared and on alert for what’s to come this fall.
“The offshore dry wind scenarios are yet to come,” Boldt said. “And we don’t expect that to really get going until October or November. It’s fairly far away to make an accurate forecast as above or below normal, but we’d probably be leaning toward a little bit above normal overall and we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll get back to back wet years and that’s what we really need to happen.”
For WeatherNation, I’m Meteorologist Garofalo