Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Feared Outcome Occurs: Major Wildfire on the Western Side of the Cascades

Last night, major fires developed along the western slopes of the northern Oregon Cascades, and another large fire was initiated northeast of Portland.  The latest visible satellite image shows the unfortunate situation (see below). 

You can see wildfire smoke over Puget Sound and Northwest Washington, something evident if you walk outside--the smell of smoke is strong in Seattle and visibility is greatly degraded.   

But look over northwest Oregon, where a massive fire is burning on the western Cascade slopes (the Beachie Creek fire).  Another fire is burning at and near the crest (Lionshead).  A large, unnamed fire is evident over the southern WA Cascades (blue arrow)

  
The spread of these fires is evident from satellite by viewing at the head emitted (for the curious, this is the 3.9 micron channel of the GOES West satellite).  Black indicates very warm, and thus fire, and the area shown is northwest Oregon.

At 5 PM last night there were two small black dots.


But this morning at 8 AM, there was a HUGE increase of those fires, plus several additional ones.


The increase is clearly in the tens of thousands of acres.  The blow up of these fires was easily seen by the Portland weather radar, which picks up the smoke plumes.  The image at 6:47 AM shows the smoke plume from both the Beachie Creek fire (east of Salem) and the unnamed fire in Washington.


The fires in that region are supported by strong easterly winds, which continue to this hour (see wind gusts ending 8 AM below).  Some locations are being hit by 50-60 mph winds and many locations are experiencing 30-40 mph winds.    You can't stop a fire in these conditions.


Strong winds and dry conditions will continue today, so that more fire spread is probable.

Let me end by noting the incredible eastern Washington fires of yesterday.  The combined Cold Springs/Pearl Hill fires south of Omak, spread 60 MILES in 20 hours over grass and brush.  They encompassed about a QUARTER MILLION acres (see map).  Just an illustration of how fast fire can move with strong winds.


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39 comments:

  1. Do I see another fire north of the blue arrow?

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    1. Perhaps dust blowing off St. Helens? Hood (and to a lesser extent Rainier) look similar.

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    2. Comparing the photo with Google Maps, we concluded that it was the fire in Graham.

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  2. Any idea how long the smoke will be in seattle?

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    1. Same. Are we expecting it to clear up, but anticipating more smoke later in the week?

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  3. Monday at 10am the dew point at Gray Field (Fort Lewis) was 64. Today, Tuesday, it's 34. Welcome to the new California!

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  4. Can someone provide a link to a good map to track fires, even the small ones?

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    1. The CalTopo "fire activity" layer is pretty good and includes recent remote-sensing data: https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=45.66781,-122.29706&z=8&b=ter&a=modis_mp

      The "National Fire Situational Awareness" map provides most of the same data, but in an interactive (and therefore slower) format: https://maps.nwcg.gov/sa/#/%3F/%3F/46.0445/-122.0822/8

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    2. I have been using https://inciweb.nwcg.gov

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  5. It's crazy that people deny climate change when this stuff happens.

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    1. http://www.nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/DRAFT/PhD_Thesis/Chapter_4.htm

      Harry. I'm a 64 year old forester who did prescribed fire and firefighting from 1974 to 1989.
      This has been going on, even worse than our current situation, for a long, long time.
      The Tillamook burn is a good recent 1933, one to study the weather that is typical of east wind fires. We have 5 times the population in OR & WA than we did then. 80% or more of large project fires are started by humans.
      There may be other indications of climate change, but these fires are NOT one.

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  6. https://napsg.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=6dc469279760492d802c7ba6db45ff0e&query=Initial_Attack_Form_2_Public_View_Layer_4057%2Cobjectid=1655

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  7. Scott, check here, the map may be slow to load:

    https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/information/firemap.aspx

    The new WA fire located west of the Cascades is NE of Vancouver WA and has been named Big Hollow. 5.9K acres burned as of 3am Tuesday morning. Surely growing by the hour due to wind conditions.

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  8. Watching the air quality numbers in real time on the purple air site is ...shocking. Check out Eugene, OR and on the OR coast south of Lincoln City.

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  9. Best place to track the fires is here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

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  10. My son in Eugene, OR reported ash on his car this afternoon.

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  11. Not a popular thing to say but sometimes the truth hurts... Going to have to let it burn at some point or we are just kicking the can down the road. Fire suppression is suppressing nature’s way of dealing with the problem for millions of years. The forests are choked with fuel. We’ve done Irepairable damage to forests with fire suppression.

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    1. So very true. The forests have burned like this, and to a much larger extent, millions of times. Our modern way of life, including overpopulation, is completely out of balance with the natural world.

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    2. Fire suppression practices are secondary to rearranging the landscape in unnatural monocultures, draining wetlands, converting whole ecosystems to impervious surfaces, invasive species, etc. Even if fire suppression ends now, fires are certain for the forseeable future because the whole system has been destabilized, from the climate to the array of species on the ground.

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    3. To "Hey" -
      As a natural resource professional and former firefighter with degrees in forestry, biology and environmental science... when I read your post I see a word salad of popular environmental buzz words & phrases, unsubstantiated concepts and successful environmental extremism brainwashing.
      This planet has always reacted to disturbance agents... there is no "stasis" or "stabilization".
      You may have admirable feelings about this but you need some unbiased education and experience in the field to augment those feelings.

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  12. This is utterly horrifying to watch with family all along the Cascade slopes in Oregon. The GOES animation of the SW IR band shows numerous fire starts overnight and utter explosion under the heat of the day today. The morning INCIweb report of the Lionshead fire showed it just crossing the cascade crest. Today that, or the Beachie fire reached far enough west to burn Mill City in the far western foothills. Mill City is 15 miles from the Beachie fire. Lionshead fire was more than 30 miles away this morning. Whole counties are under evacuation alert. Half of Marion County is under level 3 evac. Absolutely unreal.

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  13. All the fires were man-made (possible I guess a couple could of been smoldering logs from storms previously). Extreme fire conditions and people were still careless.

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    1. As someone from Arizona that has had to deal with numerous fires over 100k acres and extreme fire danger for half the year for most of my life (I was even evacuated for 2 weeks during the Rodeo-Chediski fire in 2002), don't expect that to change. I was camping in June in Arizona during a fire ban and firearm ban and saw tons of people with campfires and heard nonstop barrage of bullets. We had numerous very large fires of course. It's the same every year. People don't give a shit about anything other than their freedom to do whatever the hell they want, no matter the cost to others (human or non-human).

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    2. amen. i was living in arizona too during the r-c fire, which was a combination of 2 fires (the rodeo fire and the chediski fire) that burned into each other and formed one monster fire. one fire was started by an out of work firefighter looking for action, and the other was started by a "lost" hiker who ignited a signal fire.

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  14. Cliff, can you tell us what an atmospheric gravity wave is.

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  15. https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/information/firemap.aspx

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  16. Any rain coming? When does this hellstorm end?

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  17. See my email to you Cliff. Incredible!!! My girlfriend and I were driving home from the WA coast last night, and as the wind pushed the car around passing through Woodland I was musing how I wrote two books of research on this stuff, and don't use it anymore. Well I'll start by telling folks in the Portland Metro area that this is a pretty crazy event. Not absolutely unprecedented, but WAY in the tails. Wow!

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  18. How about some explanation for why the wind event is happening, instead of just marveling at the destruction. Couldn't have something to do with climate change, could it?

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    1. Anthony - all you have to do is read. Here ya go.. look under "The Meteorology of the Upcoming Event"

      https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2020/09/extreme-wildfire-potential-for-western.html

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    2. Ah yes, surely everything in nature that is slightly amiss must be climate change. Sadly I'm sure you'll find the explanation is something much more mundane and common. Cliff highlighted the reason in a previous post. But in case you missed it, there is a massive cold air intrusion in the Rockies, this is the result of a large high pressure dome. With lower pressures offshore, the pressure gradient is naturally trying to balance resulting in offshore flow all along the West Coast.

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    3. No...mother nature rules...peeps moving into nature...man made fires...how about that gender reveal in California...sorry but stuff happens and mother nature is in control...

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    4. The description by Trevor is just that, a description. Climate change isn't a description, it's a cause. I find that what Cliff often describes as an explanation is really a summary of conditions and says little about why. Why is that high pressure front there? Why is it lasting so long? Why is the ocean warmer? Descriptions of current conditions are not explanations.

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    5. Ok... Climate Change alarmists. What would you do - gut capitalism?

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    6. http://www.nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/DRAFT/PhD_Thesis/Chapter_4.htm

      Educate yourself. Don't be another mindless acolyte

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  19. Who else bought a PM2.5 meter?

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  20. The wind event was predicted and power companies (in California at least) could de-energize transmission lines to prevent arcing and sparks. No lightning activity was associated with the fire starts. The huge number of human-caused fires is really suspicious.

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  21. The wind event was predicted and power companies (in California at least) could de-energize transmission lines to prevent arcing and sparks. No lightning activity was associated with the fire starts. The huge number of human-caused fires is really suspicious.

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  22. Yes, this is a strong east wind/fire event. NO it is not unprecedented.
    In the 1980s I was Fire Management Officer (FMO) for the Quinault Tribe's QDNR. We had two east wind events with steady 10-15 KNOT winds & gusts over 35 in four fire seasons. RH's we're about 10-12%. 100 hour fuel moistures were 8%!!
    When the second episode ended smoke blew back in from the ocean and caused visibility problems on highway 101.
    In 1985-87 (can't recall exactly) I was on a project fire in SW WA in NOVEMBER!
    For those who are interested in a well articulated historical perspective, read this thesis:

    http://www.nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/DRAFT/PhD_Thesis/Chapter_4.htm

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