Fire Season 2016

Latest models show the winter weather pattern in the northern hemisphere Pacific Ocean region is fading. The Madden-Julien Oscillation (MJO) that was predicted to go far enough west to bring a consolidated jet stream to California — and bring another round of storms in April — is no more. So, the chances of another major storm this water year are slim to none. Chances of a late burst of rain this year, not looking good. Due to how dry Coastal SoCal is, we are likely headed for a very early fire season.

The El Niño  of 2015-2016 was hit and miss. If you divide California into four parts you can visualize what parts of California got drought relief, and which parts did not.

Northern California from San Francisco – Sacramento – Tahoe north got its El Niño. For the first time in four years reservoirs up there are full, rivers are flowing, and ski resorts stayed open all winter.

For Eastern California, including the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, all the big mountains, the Cascades, the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite, The Southern Sierra, Reno, Tahoe, Owens Valley, Death Valley, in fact all the way out into Nevada, 2016 was a wonderful water year. The Death Valley experienced a “superbloom” of desert wildflowers due to generous rains. Critical reservoirs of the Sierra will have enough water for a full San Joaquin Valley growing season. It wasn’t a super El Niño for the Sierra, but it was decent, about 130-150% of normal.

The thing about the Sierra Nevada, though, is even though it received better than average precipitation, it has in its forests millions of drought-killed trees to serve as tinder for fires.

Troy Williams/Flickr. Some rights reserved. El Capitan and forest stand with lots of dead trees. Taken 160326 at 16:40:29 PDT.

The remaining two quadrants of California got the short end. The deserts and mountains of Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties  received half the normal amount of precipitation.

The transverse Ranges between LA and Bakerfield,  the Central and Southern Coast Ranges, and all of SoCal, experienced a exceptional drought for the 5th year in a row. This quadrant of California fell short of 50% of the rain it normally gets. This quadrant is heavily forested, and where not forested, covered in thick scrub. Months of extreme fire danger awaits this quadrant. The Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland National Forests are dry as a bone. San Emigdio Mountain of the California Transverse Ranges, pictured below, one of the impacted locations.

David Prasad/Flickr. Some rights reserved. Heavily forested and entering a fifth year of drought, San Emigdio Mountain in Los Padres National Forest, part of California’s Transverse Ranges.



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