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Wildfires

August 19, 2014

There has been a great deal of buzz about current wildfires in the United States. Wildfires are uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. A wildfire differs from other fires by its extensive size, the speed at which it can spread out from its original source, its potential to change direction unexpectedly, and its ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks. Wildfires are characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties such as speed of propagation, the combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire. 

 

The fires have current consumed several parts of California. Thousands of acres have been effected and tens of thousands of people have been told to evacuate all over different parts of the state. Numerous structures have been destroyed.  These fires are to not be taking lightly, they are dangerous and can be greatly unpredictable.

 

Oregon and Washington have also been battling these wildfires, however they are slowly becoming under control. The blazes arose from lightning strikes last week causing small fires however they have continued to grow. As for the weather, the lightning storms have subsided but Oregon was still hit by just over 2,600 strikes in the past 24 hours, mostly east of the Cascades. Nearly 125 strikes were recorded in Washington. Forecasters issued a red flag warning on Monday for south-central Oregon, indicating an extreme fire threat there. 

 

Weather can have different effects on fires. Heat waves, drought, cyclical climate changes, and regional weather patterns such as high pressure can increase the risk of wildfires and dramatically increase their strength and unpredictability. Lower humidity, daytime hours and increased temperatures can also increase the strength of the fires. Wind can be a deadly factor because it can blow smothering ash around spreading the wildfires even more. 

 

There are atmospheric effects on wildfires as well. The vertical lift of a severe thunderstorm or pyrocumulonimbus can be enhanced in the area of a large wildfire, which can propel smoke, soot, and other  particulate matter as high as the lower stratosphere. Increased fire byproducts in the stratosphere can increase ozone concentration beyond safe levels. Wildfires can affect climate and weather and have major impacts on atmospheric pollution. Wildfire emissions contain fine particulate matter which can cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems. 

 

Wildfires should be taken with great caution and seriousness. They are extremely dangerous and are hazardous to the environment and human health. These fires can spread extremely quickly and are unpredictable, allowing them to create dangerous and deadly results. 

 

Please heed warnings and evacuations.  

 

Thank you. 

The Forecasting Team 

 

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© 2014 by Forecasting Consultants L.L.C.