Sept. 1, 2020 – Well, the best news I have to report is that the “second wave” of widespread dry lightning I discussed in the last post was–to a large degree–“a bust.” Dry lightning did occur, but it was focused mainly across inland portions of California (vs. the coast), and the number of strikes was only in the low hundreds (vs. nearly 15,000 during the mid-August event). As a result, only a few new fires were sparked (rather than hundreds), and existing fires were not substantially exacerbated. This is one time I’m very glad the stated 1-in-3 chance that it would fall apart actually came to pass!
Since then, conditions have remained warmer than average inland but have cooled to near-average levels near the coast, with the return of a fairly robust coastal marine layer in NorCal. This has benefitted firefighting efforts on most of the extremely large wildfires ringing the San Francisco Bay Area in particular. On most of these fires near the Bay Area, the risk of further property damage or loss of life has dramatically decreased relative to two weeks ago. On the other hand, however, fires farther north and east across interior California continue to spread very aggressively and in some cases largely unchecked. As a result, vast areas of smoke and poor air quality continue to persist.