African disturbance 92L chugs west; California fires generating significant pollution
A strong tropical wave (Invest 92L) is a few hundred miles off the coast of Africa, south of the Cape Verde Islands. This low has the potential to develop into a tropical depression later this week as it moves westwards at 15-20 mph. The low is under about 5-10 knots of wind shear, which is favorable for development. Sea Surface Temperatures are about 28°C, which is about 2-3°C above average for this date, and well above the 26°C threshold for tropical storm formation. There is not much African dust or dry air near the storm, but the low appears much as it did yesterday, with little heavy thunderstorm activity. The low has plenty of spin, as seen on this morning's QuikSCAT pass (Figure 1). One 35 mph (30 knot) wind vector was noted to the southwest of the storm's center in the QuikSCAT data, so 92L is kicking up some strong winds. There aren't really any negatives for development, except for climatology--there has never been a tropical depression that has formed east of 34° longitude in the first half of July (see the first image I posted in my July Atlantic hurricane outlook). NHC is giving a medium (20-50% chance) that 92L will develop into a tropical depression by Friday afternoon. All the models are developing this system into a tropical depression by Saturday. Wind shear is forecast by the SHIPS model to remain below 10 knots for the next four days, and the waters will stay warm (above 26°C) for the next 2-3 days of 92L's life. None of the computer models foresee that 92L will become a threat to land, and it currently appears that the storm will recurve in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, east of Bermuda.
Figure 1. QuikSCAT image of 92L from 3:12am EDT Wed July 2, 2008. Image credit: Paul Chang, NOAA/NESDIS/ORA.
California fires cause significant air pollution
It was a destructive April, May, and June for fires in California, with 889,000 acres burned (71% of this acreage since June 20!) This is over five times the acreage burned during the same months in 2007. Satellite-detected fires from April through June this year totaled over 13,000, compared to only 1,200 during the same time period in 2007. These fires have caused many cities in the state to exceed the EPA's daily standard of 35 µg/m3 for particulate air pollution (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Location of all satellite-detected fires from last year (left panel) and this year (right panel) for the months of April through June, along with the number of days when surface particle pollution exceeded EPA's daily standard in several major cities in California. Image credit: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Air quality is improving this week in California due to the onset of west-southwesterly winds aloft that have enhanced mixing and dispersion in the atmosphere. The moist flow of air off the ocean has brought fog and raised humidity levels, aiding firefighting efforts. However, with fire season's peak still months away, expect many more fires and significant pollution episodes later this summer.