Fires in the Southern United States

Multiple wildfires in different midwest states

17 March 2006

The satellite image shows multiple wildfires in different midwest states. The wildfires are continuing to breakout in different areas.

(source: OSEI)

Current fire weather situation and outlook for Arizona
More rain and more snow are likely this weekend around Arizona, the second wetweekend in a row after at least 20 weekends without a drop. A storm off thePacific Ocean likely will be warmer and only half of the size of last weekend’ssoaker. Chances of rain for the Phoenix area on Saturday and Sunday are 50-50.In Flagstaff and the northern part of the state, the possibility of snow risesto 60 percent for Saturday.

While any precipitation will be welcome, the storms will have little or noeffect on the upcoming fire season. The National Ocean and AtmosphericAdministration joined the National Interagency Fire Center on Thursday torelease the NOAA’s Spring Outlook and the NIFC’s Wildland Fire PotentialOutlook. As expected, neither one of them look good for the state:
The weather forecasters are calling for a warmer spring with average rainfall,and fire officials are expecting a worse than average fire season. Rain and snowarrived too late to offset the impacts from months of record dry weather acrossthe Southwest, resulting in the continuing potential for a dangerous fire season.

Weak La Niña conditions this winter contributed to significant drought in theSouthwest, including much of Arizona. April, May and June are the three driestmonths of the year, with total rain amount of about a quarter of an inch onaverage. The drought is likely to persist or even worsen until monsoon seasonarrives in the summer. Nearly unprecedented dry weather, unseasonably hightemperatures and gusty winds have already contributed to more than 13,000wildfires nationwide since 1 January, scorching almost half a million hectares.In Arizona, several smaller fires have erupted, far earlier than expected.

Smoke over Southern United States
A thick cloud of aerosols hung over part of North America on 12 March 2006. Aerosols, tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere, can result from a variety of sources, including dust storms, pollution, and smoke. This aerosol cloud, extending from northern Mexico through Kansas, likely resulted in a large part from fires in Texas and Oklahoma. Windy conditions that helped spread some wildfires might also have lofted dust particles into the air.

12 March 2006

(source: EarthObservatory)

The Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) flying onboard the Aura satellite captured this image on12 March 2006. This false-color image shows the thickness of dust, smoke, or pollution in theatmosphere. The most intense aerosol concentrations appear in bright red, followed by yellow andgreen. A band of thick aerosols appears just south of a large swath of cloud cover(appearing in white) in the Midwestern United States. This aerosol cloud, stretching from the New Mexico-Mexico border northeast into Kansas, shows patches of high concentrationsthroughout, although the biggest patches of intense aerosols appear in Oklahoma and Kansas. More diffuse aerosol clouds appear throughout North America, extending intoCanada.

Drought in the Southern United States
Rainfall across the United States in the winter of 2005-06 has shown the classic pattern of a La Niña event. La Niña is a climate anomaly (departure from average conditions) that consists of cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central and eastern Pacific and warmer-than-average SSTs over the western Pacific. Changes in the atmospheric circulation occur during La Niña events, as well. These combined ocean-atmosphere changes are likely responsible for the drought in the Southwest, the South, the central Plains, and Florida that has led to several devastating wildfires this season.

1 February 2006

(source: EarthObservatory)

This image shows where daily rainfall was above and below average in the United States between October 2005 and January 2006 compared to the eight-year average for that time frame. Places where rainfall was above average are in blue and green, while places rainfall was below average are in orange and red. The data are from the Tropical-Rainfall-Measuring-Mission-based, near-real-time, Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Pacific Northwest (green and blue areas), especially along the coast and over the coastal ranges of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington (blue areas) received more precipitation than usual. Almost the entire rest of the country, barring New England, had below-normal rainfall. The most intense rainfall deficits (orange and red areas) include the area stretching from Texas up through the central Plains and Upper Midwest, as well as the Gulf Coast, most of Florida, and along the southern Atlantic coast. In the Southwest, the rainfall deficit added to the stress of several years of below-average rainfall. Most of Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas, and central Oklahoma have received less than 25 percent of their normal rainfall for the period. The current La Niña is expected to persist for the next several months.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite was launched in November 1997. It measures rainfall over the global tropics using both passive and active sensors, including the first precipitation radar in space. TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency,JAXA.

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