Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Patzert's Bleak

Satellite image of Southern California fires at 12:30 p.m. today (Google/Forest Service, from the Los Angeles Times)

Bill Patzert, noted (and often accurate) JPL climatologist, isn't very optimistic about this year's fire season in Southern California:

"Santa Ana winds are a winter thing and actually peak in December," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

Patzert said bursts of Santa Ana winds traditionally last two days, making this possible four-day trend highly unusual.

Even when the wind dies down, the high temperatures and unprecedented dryness ensure that firefighters will be on the front lines for days to come, he said.
And this:
"In the long-range forecasting business, there's always the contrarian," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge. "But the contrarian seems to be pretty absent at this point. I've got a lot of compassion for the firefighters. The consensus is it's going to be another dry year in the Southland."

Patzert said these winds were notable not just for their power but their longevity.

"This Santa Ana has got legs," he added. "This could be a 72-hour event. And when the winds get this strong, it's really dangerous."
The weather forecasts look pretty darn bleak. The only possible source of relief, Tropical Storm Kiko, looks like it won't make it to California before getting captured by the trough off the western coast, and brought into northern, not southern, California, next week. So, condolences to the firefighters, and the victims.

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