Dry thunderstorms can spark wildfires in California

On Wednesday and Thursday, a mix of tropical moisture and an offshore storm may cause an increase in thunderstorms across parts of California. While a couple of the storms may drench certain areas, AccuWeather meteorologists warn that the majority of the storms will bring little or no rain, perhaps resulting in a surge in wildfires.

According to a recent peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the western region of the United States is experiencing the driest period in at least 1,200 years. For much of the last decade, California has been afflicted by severe drought, with below-average rainfall in at least eight of the last ten years. Water restrictions have been imposed by state and local governments in numerous towns and cities as a result of this. To alleviate water shortages, state officials turned to water reactions once again last month.

According to the latest data from the US Drought Monitor, about 98 percent of California was in severe drought or worse as of mid-June.

AccuWeather has provided this information. Over Baja California, Mexico, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, bubbly clouds linked with leftover rainfall from Tropical Rainstorm Blas may be seen (lower center). Over New Mexico, a more solid cloud area could be seen (right of center).

During the dry season, which lasts from the spring to the summer and early autumn, there are few chances for rain. From June 1 to September 30, the average rainfall in Downtown Los Angeles is less than 0.25 inch. During the same four-month period, the Sierra Nevada receives an average rainfall of 1-2 inches.

An increase in scattered shower and thunderstorm activity is expected from Tuesday evening through Wednesday night, providing another chance for rain before the end of the week. From Thursday to Friday, the number of storms will decrease.

AccuWeather has provided this information.

Southerly breezes have been blowing across the interior Southwest for the past few days, further to the east. The North American monsoon is defined as a shift in wind direction from west to south. Showers and thunderstorms have erupted in parts of the region as a result of the increased moisture.

Downpours have been falling in New Mexico for the previous few days, which will greatly benefit firefighting efforts. According to the Southwestern U.S. Coordination Center, more than 864,000 acres have burnt in New Mexico alone so far in 2022, compared to an average of 270,000 acres that catch fire during the course of the year. As of June 20, wildfires in California had destroyed around 17,000 acres.


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California has escaped some of the deadliest wildfires in the Southwest in recent months, with large fires smoldering in New Mexico and Arizona, but that might soon change.

“From the setup this week, rainfall totals will be limited,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Heather Zehr said. Rainfall will most likely be less than 0.25 inch and may only be a few hundredths of an inch where it falls.

The possibility of low rainfall in California, according to Zehr, will be caused by a weather-maker other than the monsoon pattern. “Some precipitation from Tropical Rainstorm Blas will be dragged northward by a weak storm that will drop southward off the Pacific coast,” Zehr said.

AccuWeather has provided this information.

Blas was a Category 1 hurricane that made landfall off the coast of Mexico earlier this month but lost its wind energy during the weekend. On Monday, the former hurricane dissipated over the Pacific near Baja California, Mexico, to a patch of clouds and rain.

“A few of the thunderstorms that pop up as a result of the increased humidity may deliver brief downpours,” Zehr added, “but there will be a risk of several lightning strikes distant from the rainfall, where sparks could cause wildfires to ignite.”

According to AccuWeather meteorologists, dry vegetation can easily burn in areas where downpours do not fall soon.

Because much of the winter rain and mountain snow totals were substantially lower than average, the vegetation is much drier than usual for this time of year. While the northern half of California received a lot of rain and snow in December, the southern part of the state did not get nearly as much. Storms were scarce for the remainder of the winter, and rain and mountain snow occurrences were scarce in the spring.

AccuWeather has provided this information.

In addition to the risk of wildfires starting as a result of the intermittent thunderstorm activity, some occurrences of blowing dust can significantly decrease visibility for vehicles. In exceptional circumstances, enough rain can fall quickly enough to cause flash flooding and debris flows. These dangers are especially likely to occur in metropolitan areas and places with fresh burn scars.

Rain is more likely in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Palm Springs, California, with a risk of a shower or thunderstorm reaching as far north as Reno, Nevada, San Francisco, and Sacramento. In Las Vegas, a light shower or thunderstorm cannot be ruled out.

During any rain, motorists should provide extra stopping distance and limit their speed because the mix of water and oil buildup on the roadways can make for especially slick conditions, according to experts.

Hikers should keep a look out for rapidly changing weather conditions and stay away from exposed ridges, which are frequently struck by lightning. Hikers and cyclists should also avoid generally dry stream banks that could quickly fill with water from miles away due to downpours.

At the end of the week, the pattern that has been causing the sporadic thunderstorm activity will break down, and any rainfall will likely migrate east and north.

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