California Heat, Drought, High Winds, Long Summers, and Wildfires

California Heat, Drought, High Winds, Long Summers, and Wildfires

We write this column to describe the desert and drought conditions of California.  

To start with, there are longer summers, due to climate change.  This is mid-November, and we are still having 80 degree days in Southern California.  

The Santa Ana conditions are winds that come from the deserts to the ocean, and are hot, drying, dusty winds.

Dennis McTighe, Laguna Beach’s weatherman in Stu News Laguna of Nov. 13 addressed this.  In Northern California the winds are called Diablo winds, and in the Northwest, Gorge winds, along the Columbia river.  The high pressure blocks Pacific storms with rains.  This year in Portland, there have only been 0.3 of an inch of rain, while November is their second wettest month.  This may become the driest November on record there.  No rain is forecast for California through Thanksgiving.

Let’s start with the major US cities with the most dry days per year:  Las Vegas, 339; Phoenix, 335; Riverside, 335, Los Angeles, 329; San Diego, 324; Sacramento, 305; San Jose 303.  All but the first two are in California.  Trump is familiar with Las Vegas, where he has a golden tower on the Strip.  Paradise, CA, which burned in the Camp Fire, is 90 miles North of Sacramento.  Malibu, CA, with the Woolsey fire, is next to Los Angeles.

The major US cities with the least rain, in inches per year, are Las Vegas, 4;  Phoenix, 8; Riverside, 10; San Diego, 10; Los Angeles, 13; Denver, 16; San Jose, 16; Salt Lake City, 16; and Sacramento, 19; where I have rounded off.

We contrast this with major cities that get the most rain, which Trump is familiar with, in inches per year:  Miami, 62; New York, 50, Virginia Beach, 47.  These get three to five times as much rain a year as Los Angeles gets.

On top of this, all or parts of California suffer from year long droughts.  The Southern California coast is currently rated Severe Drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor at droughtmonitor.unl.edu (University of Nebraska – Lincoln).  The Central Valley, including Sacramento, is rated Abnormally Dry.

The California Professional Firefighter President, Brian Rice, has explained to Trump in a letter that they have 8,000 firefighters on the lines, and that the federal government has reduced money to manage National forests.  The Camp Fire started in an area under federal management.   The National Forests and federal areas own and manage 57% of California forests.

Mr. Rice explained that we are in the seventh year of a drought.  We have 60-70 mph winds. The forests are dry, and the humidity is low.

While I haven’t found out for sure if the high winds will increase with climate change, they come from the Arctic and flow South, and the Arctic has polar vortices and high heating from climate change that point to it.

All of these conditions are heightened by climate change, and we have to plan to better site and build more fire resistant communities.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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