Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

The 2017 North Bay and Southern California Fires: A Case Study

Version 1 : Received: 14 April 2018 / Approved: 16 April 2018 / Online: 16 April 2018 (08:00:29 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Nauslar, N.J.; Abatzoglou, J.T.; Marsh, P.T. The 2017 North Bay and Southern California Fires: A Case Study. Fire 2018, 1, 18. Nauslar, N.J.; Abatzoglou, J.T.; Marsh, P.T. The 2017 North Bay and Southern California Fires: A Case Study. Fire 2018, 1, 18.

Journal reference: Fire 2018, 1, 18
DOI: 10.3390/fire1010018

Abstract

Two extreme wind-driven wildfire events impacted northern and southern California in late 2017 leading to 46 fatalities and thousands of structures lost. This study describes the meteorological and climatological factors that drove and enabled these wildfire events and quantifies the rarity of such conditions over the observational record. Both extreme wildfire events featured fire-weather metrics that were unprecedented in the observational record in addition to a sequence of climatic conditions that preconditioned fuels. The North Bay fires that affected portions of northern California in early October occurred coincident with strong downslope winds. The vast majority of the fires’ devastating effects and acres burned occurred overnight and within the first twelve hours of ignition. By contrast, the southern California fires of December were characterized by the longest Santa Ana wind event on record and included the largest wildfire in California’s history. Both fire events occurred following an exceptionally wet winter that was preceded by the drought of record in California. Fuels were further preconditioned as the warmest summer and autumn on record occurred in northern and southern California, respectively. Accelerated curing of fuels coupled with the delayed onset of autumn precipitation allowed for critically low dead fuel moisture leading up to the foehn wind events. Fire weather conditions were well forecasted several days prior to the fire. However, the rarity of fire-weather conditions that occurred in the wildland urban interface, along with other societal factors were key contributors to wildfire impacts to communities.

Subject Areas

fire weather; fire climate; large wildfires; downslope windstorm; wildland urban interface; drought; foehn winds

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