Northern California has quiet fire season in 2010, NWS says

Northern California has quiet fire season in 2010, NWS says

04 March 2011

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USA — Northern California avoided a bad wildland fire season last year in part due to a cool, wet spring and fairly mild summer, according to an analysis by the National Weather Service.

A total of 35,674 acres burned in Northern California in 2010 — the smallest amount in the last 12 years, according to the report.

Storms marched through the region almost every week in April and May, according to the Sacramento Fire Weather Annual Summary. Temperatures were 3.4 degrees below normal in April and 4 degrees below normal in May.

Some spots in the mountains and foothills got about 5 inches more precipitation than normal in May. And May rains caused a second crop of green grass to sprout below the 2,000-feet elevation level.

Brush, such as manzanita, had more moisture than normal. The late rains kept moisture levels above average through August, preventing brush from becoming tinder dry.

The wet spring was followed by a beautiful summer, according to the weather service report. Low pressure mostly remained in place over the Pacific Northwest.

As low pressure systems shifted inland, they tugged along cooler ocean air. The weather service noted that July and August temperatures were two to three degrees below normal in the Central Valley.

In Sacramento, only 14 days hit 100 degrees or higher, compared with the usual 22. An offshore low pressure system did produce a spate of thunderstorms across Northern California August 14 and 15, however most of the activity was to the north and east.

The 36,000 acres burned in Northern California last year was the lowest amount since 1998. In the past 17 years, only 1998 (33,182 acres burned), 1995 (20,605) and 1997 (19,401) were quieter fire years in the Northern California area surveyed by the weather service.

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