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Weather Nerd

A quake in Indonesia, fires in California, but tropics remain quiet

November 16th, 2008 - 1:35 pm

With two weeks until the climatological end of the Atlantic hurricane season, things remain utterly quiet, with no apparent cause for concern anywhere in the ocean. Dr. Jeff Masters summarizes:

In the tropics, there are no threat areas to discuss, and none of the reliable models are calling for tropical storm formation over the next seven days. However, it is possible that an extratropical low expected to form south of the Azores Islands on Monday will be able to gradually acquire tropical characteristics during the week, and could become a subtropical storm late next week. Such a storm is not likely to threaten any land areas.

On the other side of the world, there was concern earlier today about a different kind of oceanic activity — a possible Indian Ocean tsunami — after a 7.5 earthquake struck Indonesia. However, it appears no tsunami was generated. CNN reports:

A powerful earthquake early Monday in Indonesia led briefly to fears of a possible tsunami, but officials soon lifted a warning, and there were no reports of casualties or damage. …

Indonesia’s National Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said there were no immediate reports of a tsunami.

Local TV reports in Gorontalo said panicked residents were outside their homes, though there were no reports of casualties or damage.

It’s worth remembering that earthquake strength is measured on a logarithmic scale, so even a 7.5 earthquake, though nothing to sneeze at, is much, much, much weaker than the 9.0 monster that triggered the calamitous 2004 tsunami.

Meanwhile, the day’s big disaster news here in the U.S. is, of course, the Southern California wildfires. Fires aren’t my specialty, but here’s a Google Map of the affected areas from the Los Angeles Times, which, of course, has complete coverage of the fires. And here’s a summary from Dr. Masters:

A strong Santa Ana wind event continues over Southern California, fanning two major fires that have caused over $100 million in damage near Los Angeles. Wind gusts up to 76 mph were clocked early this morning at Camp Nine near the Sylmar fire, which is burning in the mountains about twenty miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Yesterday, winds gusted to 72 mph near the Montecito Hills fire in Santa Barbara County. A Fire Weather Warning continues for the Los Angeles area, and high wind warning. As air drops out of the mountains, it will warm due to compression as its pressure increases. The warm winds have caused several record highs to be set, including 91° in Burbank yesterday. Very low humidities in the 5-10% range have contributed to the dangerous fire conditions. Fire conditions will ease on Sunday as high pressure weakens, allowing winds to slow down. However, winds are not forecast to reverse direction and blow moist air inland from the ocean until Tuesday. 

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