Thursday, July 23, 2015

Strange Skies over the Great Valley Today

Tell me this isn't one of the stranger looking skies you've ever seen. I would have been rather freaked seeing this without having known the origin. It's not clouds.
We were driving home after our latest journey, and could see a wildfire burning on the west side of the Great Valley north of Sacramento. We couldn't get details until we got home, but it turns out to be burning in the Lake Berryessa area, and it's engulfed 4,000 acres so far, and is threatening 150 structures (an update can be found here).
Our usual experience, which we feared would be happening as we approached the smoke plume, is to have the smoke at ground level, leading to impaired visibility and smoke inhalation problems. Instead, something about the weather today kept most of the smoke just above the ground. I suspect the "Delta Breeze", the landward flow of colder denser air from the Sacramento Delta, may have kept the warmer smokier air aloft. That was a relief to us.
I'm not looking forward to the continuing wildfire season. We don't need anymore of this. Word is circulating that we may have a record El Nino condition developing in the western Pacific Ocean, and if it does, the record California drought may break. It's a two-edged sword though. The last strong El Nino in 1997 caused record flooding in the central part of the state.
We crossed the Sacramento River at the Yolo Causeway and emerged from underneath the smoky plume. The skies were again clear and blue (and windy). I found myself wondering if this is what it is like to be living in the path of a volcanic ash eruption. 
Mrs. Geotripper snapped all these pictures. She insisted, since I was driving the car.

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