Dry lightning possible in California and northwestern states Thursday

Lightning with little or no rain could start more wildfires

forecast weather fire wildfire dry lightning Sept. 9, 2021 map
Forecast for lightning with little or no precipitation for 6 a.m. MDT Thursday until 6 a.m. MDT Friday.

Areas in 10 western states are included in forecasts for isolated or scattered thunderstorms with little or no rain Thursday afternoon and night, prompting Red Flag Warnings.

Nationally 23,467 firefighters are actively attempting to suppress 58 large fires and another 47 are being managed under a less than full suppression strategy. If this dry lightning event in drought-affected desiccated vegetation creates a new round of wildfires it would put additional stress on the wildfire suppression system that is already struggling to mobilize enough personnel and equipment for the existing 105 fires. Only one of the 16 Type 1 Incident Management Teams is available for new fires.

The National Weather Service predicts “…dry and breezy conditions conducive to fire spread across portions of the western Great Basin northeastward to the northern High Plains. Deep-layer ascent associated with the approaching upper trough will also support isolated to scattered thunderstorms across the western Great Basin and portions of the Pacific Northwest into the northern Rockies. Several fire starts will be possible where thunderstorms occur given the extremely dry fuels in place.”

Some locations from central Nevada northwestward to central Oregon and eastward to south-central Montana could receive more than half an inch of rain, but lightning could occur with no rain. Of particular concern is the area from central Oregon into far Northern California where fire managers should expect dry thunderstorms.

Red Flag Warnings forecast weather fire wildfire dry lightning Sept. 9, 2021 map
Red Flag Warnings Sept. 9, 2021.

The analysis in the tweet below raises the possibility of lightning with little or no rain in California’s South Bay, Central Coast, Santa Cruz Mountains, and the Los Padres National Forest in Monterey County. This area is under a Red Flag Watch.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

9 thoughts on “Dry lightning possible in California and northwestern states Thursday”

  1. In some of the articles about PyroCumuloNimbus clouds and associated “fire weather”, they suggest that the wildfire smoke contributes to dry lightning.

    The kind of feedback loop you DON’T want to have.

    There are so many articles about “wildfires making their own weather”, it’s a little tiresome.

    Is the extra wildfire smoke a causative factor, producing extra dry lightning – or is it just the mainstream media creating content that sells ads ?

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    1. It isn’t the wildfire smoke in a PyroCumuloNimbus cloud that contributes to lightning. It is the moisture, which is a product of combustion, the heat, which causes lifting, and instability, the three ingredients required for lightning. Also, sometimes a light rain falls from that cloud too.

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  2. Looks like 93 total Smokejumpers listed as “Available”, today 9/6/21, 1145 MST. If there are widespread multiple starts, hopefully this resource, (among others) can be utilized for very quick initial attack.

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  3. When you say “47 fires are being managed with ‘less than full suppression’ strategy,” what exactly do you mean?
    To many of us with extensive fire experience, this reads like the so-called “managed wildfire” tactic used by the USFS. I’m just trying to be clear here with the use of terms and phrases.

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    1. That description came from today’s National Interagency Coordination Center Incident Management Situation Report. It means on an individual fire they may or may not be suppressing any of it. Or, for example, the strategy could be to suppress one side of it and point-protect improvements or sensitive areas. Or, any other strategy on the continuum between full suppression and no suppression.

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    1. If you want to pray, maybe we should pray for RAIN!

      One thing that meteorologists have never gotten very good at – for a number of reasons – is the prediction of precipitation intensities. They’re pretty good nowadays at predicting what KIND of weather we’ll get but much less so as to how MUCH.

      It is possible that these storms might end up producing more rain than what they thought. Is that my prediction? Nope. It’s my hope and prayer. We’ll see.

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    2. JW I agree with prayers for all our Fire folks and their families on the fires. We haven’t come to the end of the fire season or States that can have fires. Thank You for the reminder!

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