A fire season like no other seems to be developing, with the latest predictions from long range forecasters showing a convergence of ominous news.
A normal June would seem lush by comparison. Typically, by late spring, vegetation would be drying, despite wringing the last bits of moisture from the soil. This year, officials say, grass, shrubs trees are as dry now as is typical for mid-July. A spark is often all it takes.
Stephen Leach is a forecaster with Predictive Services, a federal inter-agency weather forecasting group.
"To be at the point of peak fire season already here as June begins, means that we're off and running, with high threat every day of fires growing large, spreading fast."
Looking ahead, Leach and colleagues say weather patterns will bring elevated risks. The southwest monsoon should deliver more thunderstorms---and lightning strikes---than typical to the Sierra, disrupting CAL FIRE'S ability to quickly respond to new blazes elsewhere.
The official outlook, published late Tuesday, sees above normal potential for significant fire reaching to the coast in September and October.
One positive note: the stingy rainy season stunted the normally thick grasses that turn flammable by summer, Leach said. However, many shrubs have shifted into self-preservation mode, letting branches dry up and die off, adding potential tinder to any sparks. Leach said the two trends are a wash.