Here We Go… Southern California Wildfires Erupt Amidst High Heat, Epic Drought, and Santa Ana Winds

By Tom Yulsman | May 14, 2014 6:25 pm

It was only a matter of time, and it looks like that time has come…

Drought and heat have caught up to California. As I write this, multiple wildfires are burning in San Diego County. 10News San Diego is reporting that one of the fires, which began at about 10:30 a.m. today, has destroyed as many as 30 homes in Carlsbad. In the face of the blaze, dubbed the Poinsettia Fire, about 15,000 residences have received reverse 911 calls urging the occupants to leave. So far, no deaths or injuries have been reported in that one, thank goodness.

But other fires are blazing too — five more, according to 10News.

Smoke from at least some of the fires, as well some burning south of the U.S.-Mexico border, is visible from space:

Wildfires Erupt

NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of smoke plumes streaming out to sea from a few spots north of the city of San Diego. Another smoke plume is also evident south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Red dots mark spots where an instrument on Terra detected fire. (Source: NASA)

In an hour or so, images from the Aqua satellite, the twin of Terra, which acquired this one, will be coming in. I suspect they will be a bit sharper. If so, I’ll update this post.

Temperatures in the 90s along with Santa Ana winds have combined with record dry conditions to create the perfect environment for fire.

Wildfires Fires Erupt

One hundred percent of the State of California is in drought right now, as the latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows. A shocking 77 percent of the state is in extreme drought, including the area north of San Diego where the fires are burning today.

Some improvement in weather conditions may be ahead, but the region is not out of the woods just yet. From the National Weather Service forecast discussion page for this part of California:

.SYNOPSIS...
HIGH PRESSURE WILL BUILD OVER THE WEST COAST THROUGH THURSDAY...WITH
VERY HOT AND DRY CONDITIONS PREVAILING. STRONG AND GUSTY SANTA ANA
WINDS WILL CONTINUE THROUGH TODAY...THEN WEAKEN A BIT FOR
THURSDAY...BEFORE ENDING ON FRIDAY. A COOLING TREND WILL ALSO
DEVELOP ALONG THE COAST ON FRIDAY...THEN SPREAD ACROSS THE INLAND
AREAS THIS WEEKEND...

I have a bad feeling about this…

  • ObeyMyBrain

    The news just said there are 9 active fires with 2 more starting this afternoon in Scripps Ranch and El Cajon (Which is just a few miles from me)

    • Tom Yulsman

      Sorry to hear this! I hope you and your loved ones will be safe.

  • David Darin Aker

    Thanks for covering the story Tom! Any new satellite images from Aqua yet?

    • RaePooletik321

      my friend’s sister makes $80 hourly on the computer .
      She has been unemployed for 10 months but last month her check was $12489 just
      working on the computer for a few hours. view website F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    http://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm
    Ten-year US wildfire average versus this year:
    Total fires to date: 24,379 versus 21,384. No problem.
    Total acreage to date: 813,790 versus 424,621. Way no problem.

    California fires in progress are a few thousand acres. That’s piffle. That’s an RCH in heavy casting machine shop.

    Central Valley agriculture is being carefully destroyed by Sacramento withholding all irrigation allotments. Then, eminent domain seize for pennies/dollar a $100 billion Bullet Train transportation corridor from the Grapevine to Sacramento. Estimated tens of thousands of people each day will ride at 200 mph from nothing to nowhere and back, paying airline prices.

    It looks like 3-5 times the estimated cost will deliver an average 50 mph train ride for a couple of hundred people/day. That is not the point. Next year’s historic El Niño will make the Central Valley a vast deep lake. Giant trimaran hydrofoil speed boats to Sacramento! Collected monies will disappear like dew on a warm spring morning, then back to farming by more deserving land owners.

    • Tom Yulsman

      Uncle Al: Please don’t use the comments section here as your own personal blog. I can appreciate that you have all sorts of views on a wide range of subjects, and if you want to showcase them, by all means start your own blog. Otherwise, I would appreciate it if you would confine your comments here to the subject being discussed. In this case, the subject is wildfire in California. Drought, heat, climate change, the frequency of wildfire, development in fire-prone areas — all these things are certainly relevant to the discussion. Bullet trains are not.

      As to your comments about wildfire, these are actually irrelevant too. You cite U.S. statistics whereas my post is about California. Do you deny that California is in the midst of a terrible drought and that this greatly raises the risk of a bad wildfire season?

      Concerning El Niño, are you so blind that you do not even sense a hint of contradiction in your arguments? You excoriate climate scientists for relying on models to make projections about the future, and then say with breathtaking surety that El Niño will turn the Central Valley into a “lake.” How do you think projections of ENSO are made? With a slide ruler?

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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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