WEATHER 2020: Looking forward, looking back

WEATHER 2020: Looking forward
Remember September: The weather was hot, fire was being fought, and smoke was a lot!

The rainfall on November 8, 2020, of .70 inches at 1,000 feet and snow above 6,000 feet dampened the local wildfire season. Cooler temperatures have arrived, signaling that it is indeed fall. But nary a drop of precipitation in Three Rivers or in the local mountains has occurred in the past month, making for an extremely dry autumn season. There is a slight chance for some sporadic rain showers in the Three Rivers environs over the coming weekend, but in this weather pattern that has been classified by meteorologists as La Nina, low percentages of rainfall in the forecast often turn into less hits and more misses.

For comparison, in 2019, the first significant rainfall occurred on November 27 and measured 1.05 inches. The season total in Three Rivers for 2019-2020 was 13.80 inches, nearly seven inches below the 30-year average.

I don’t really have much good news to pass along for the month of December. Right now, both traditional dynamical ensemble predictions and experimental statistical outlooks point to high odds of a substantially drier-than-average month across California – especially the southern 3/4 of the state. Given the already moderately strong La Nina event ongoing in the tropical Pacific and predictions of further strengthening into “strong” [resilient ridge] territory, I don’t really see any reason to doubt these outlooks. That said: “drier than average” does not equate to a total shut-out in the precipitation department. There should eventually be more rain and snow across California this winter. But when all is said and done, the odds that the seasonal total will be below average looks pretty high – and increases with each passing dry week. (Daniel Swain, PhD, UCLA climate scientist, @Weather_West)

November puts 2020 on track to be hottest year

Last month beat out November 2016 to become the hottest November on record, reported scientists with the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Temperatures before November were about the same as 2016, the hottest year on record, setting up 2020 to tie or break the record for the hottest year. Copernicus scientists said November 2020 was about .1 degree Celsius — .2 degree Fahrenheit — warmer than November 2016 and November 2019, which were tied for the warmest months before. And when it comes to the average November temperature from 1981 to 2010, this year’s November was about .8 degree Celsius, or 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer. WEATHER 2020: Looking forward

The year in California climate

In 2020, California had its driest February on record.

In Death Valley National Park, the mercury hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit on August 16, 2020, quite possibly the highest reliably recorded temperature ever recorded on Earth and for sure breaking the previous all-time record set in 2013.

On September 6, 2020, Los Angeles County recorded its highest temperature ever at 121°F at Woodland Hills. Several other cities, like Paso Robles and Palmdale, also hit record highs.

In early September 2020, an intense heatwave broke temperature records in several locations in Central and Southern California. The dry, hot conditions helped fuel new and existing fires, which consumed a record-breaking amount of the state. These extremes fit a long-term trend toward longer and more intense heatwaves in California.

One helluva fire season

A dry thunderstorm that generated more than 8,000 recorded lightning strikes hit Central and Northern California in late July and again in mid August ignited multiple megafires. The resulting August Complex became the largest fire in state history and WEATHER 2020: Looking forwardtogether with the SCU Lightning Complex, the LNU Lightning Complex, and the North Complex fires, it burned across more than 2 million acres, destroyed 5,000 structures and killed 22 people. 

Smoke from California’s fires spread across the region, causing particulate matter to build up to levels that were hazardous to health and significantly diminished solar energy output.

Kaweah Country’s 2020 fire nemesis was the SQF Complex fire, more specifically the Castle Fire portion of the complex, which burned more than 170,000 acres from August 19, when it was ignited in the southeast Tulare County mountains by lightning, until November 8, when it was mostly doused by snow and rain. This was the largest and most destructive fire ever recorded in Tulare County with 228 structures destroyed in the south county mountain communities. Additional destruction occurred as the fire raged through about 20 sequoia groves, where the death toll of giant sequoias, including old-growth sequoias, is expected to be in the thousands. Although Three Rivers was under varying levels of evacuation orders, no structures were destroyed in the community by the fire.

Here is how destructive this fire season was in California:

—Five of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred in 2020.

—Largest Wildfires: #1 August Complex, #3 SCU Lightning Complex, #4 Creek Fire, #5 LNU Lightning Complex, #6 North Complex, #18 SQF Complex.

—Most Destructive Wildfires: #5 North Complex, #10 Glass Fire, #11 LNU Lightning Complex, #12 CZU Lightning Complex, #17 August Fire, #19 Creek Fire. WEATHER 2020: Looking forward

—Deadliest Wildfires: #5 North Complex, #16 LNU Lightning Complex.

The highest point on Earth is taller now

Mount Everest has a newly announced elevation: 29,031.69 feet above sea level, according to survey results presented this week That is more than two feet higher than the altitude previously recognized by the government of Nepal.

The elevation, which was announced December 8, 2020, in a joint statement by the Survey Department of Nepal and Chinese authorities, is the culmination of a multiyear project to definitively measure the legendary mountain. 

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