Sunday, September 06, 2020

California faces record-setting ‘kiln-like’ heat as fires rage, causing injuries

By Andrew Freedman
September 6, 2020 at 8:55 p.m. EDT

Sunday will be one of the hottest days in recent memory across much of California, the day after scorching temperatures set scores of records and intensified destructive wildfires erupting in the state.

Heat and red-flag warnings are in effect statewide into the coming week as the heat will continue to fuel the fires already burning and could cause any new blazes to rapidly grow out of control.

The most serious wildfire situation developed with the Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest, about 290 miles north of Los Angeles, which was first detected Friday night and rapidly grew to at least 45,500 acres by Sunday morning.

That fire trapped about 1,000 people near Mammoth Pool reservoir as flames crossed the San Joaquin River, including about 150 people who became stranded at a boat launch, the Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, 200 people were rescued from the Mammoth Pool Campground by military helicopters. Two of them were severely injured, 10 had “moderate injuries” and others had minor or no injuries. According to the California Air National Guard, this was the largest wildfire-related air evacuation in recent memory.


On Sunday, the National Weather Service office in Sacramento tweeted that more than 99 percent of California’s population was under an Excessive Heat Warning or Heat Advisory.


In addition to the Creek Fire, firefighters are still battling the second-, third- and fourth-largest fires in state history that erupted during a mid-August heat wave and unusual thunderstorms north of San Francisco. Although those fires are better contained, the heat, dry weather and shifting, strong offshore winds are causing an uptick in their activity.

Since Aug. 15, the state has seen more than 1.6 million acres burned, 900 new fires started, along with eight deaths and nearly 3,300 destroyed structures. In an average California fire season, about 310,000 acres are burned, according to Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency.

Daniel Swain, a climate researcher at UCLA, said the state may set a record for the “most acres burned in the modern era” as soon as Monday.


In a sign of the heat to come, temperatures did not drop below the 90s on Saturday night and into early Sunday in some locations from the San Fernando Valley to parts of L.A. County. Two temperature stations in the L.A. area were still hovering above the century mark [100F] at 3:02 a.m. local time, the Weather Service said.


High temperatures in Southern California on Sunday ranged from 105 to 115 degrees near the coast to up to 120 degrees in inland areas, which would edge past all-time-high temperature records in some locations.

Some noteworthy temperature records that have already fallen include:


Studies show human-caused climate change is tilting the odds in favor of more frequent, severe and longer lasting heat waves, as well as larger wildfires throughout large parts of the West. Research published last month, for example, shows climate change is tied to more frequent occurrences of extreme-fire-risk days in parts of California during the fall (meteorologists define the fall as beginning Sept. 1).

Michael Wehner, who researches extreme weather events at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, estimates, “Climate change has caused extreme heat waves to be 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in California.” These trends “will continue as the planet continues to warm,” he said in an email, noting that the amount of warming will depend on future greenhouse gas emissions.


Extreme heat has been the top weather-related killer in the United States during the past 30 years, and combined with poor air quality from nearby fires as well as the coronavirus pandemic, the health threat is particularly acute. Air conditioning provides the best protection from excessive heat, but rather than risking exposure to the virus at cooling shelters, the pandemic may keep people who lack air conditioning at home.


tags: extreme weather, severe weather,

No comments:

Post a Comment