Over 1,000 Lightning Strikes Occurred Overnight in California, Igniting New Wildfires
Overnight, a swarm of thunderstorms swept over California, lighting up the night sky and starting additional wildfires across the state. The National Weather Service in San Francisco tweeted, “Approximately 1100 cloud to ground strikes in the state since last evening.”
Around 110 confirmed cloud-to-ground hits were documented in the Bay Area alone. The weather service claimed there were too many cloud-to-cloud flashes to count. Sensors aboard a NOAA satellite captured the lightning strikes, which were visible across the state.
While several of these storms supplied much-needed rain to the drought-stricken region, such as in San Francisco, many of them were referred to as “dry thunderstorms.” When the air in which rain falls is extremely dry, the rain evaporates before it reaches the ground, resulting in a dry thunderstorm.
CNN meteorologist Chad Myers explains that “For many outsides of the western states, lightning means heavy rain, and although some storms do bring rain, many are considered dry storms that don’t produce enough rainfall to extinguish the fire that was created.”
Myers says that “Lightning in California creates significant wildfires every year. Many of the largest wildfires in California history were sparked by cloud to ground strikes.”
Unfortunately, that was the case Thursday night.
In the Sacramento area we saw most of the activity over the central and southern Sacramento Valley and portions of the mountains including the Caldor Fire area, Idamis Del Valle, a meteorologist with NWS Sacramento, told CNN Weather.
Califre tweets that “Firefighters were diverted from the Caldor Fire to fight multiple lightning fires late last night throughout El Dorado County. Lightning from heavy storm cells passing through the northwestern part of El Dorado County started the largest on Kanaka Valley Road in Rescue.”
Drought caused by climate change is to blame for all of this activity. CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller says that “Droughts are part of a vicious cycle that reinforces itself. When a major drought is in place, like in California now, there is significantly less water and moisture in the ground and thus in the atmosphere via a lack of evaporation. This makes ‘dry thunderstorms’ much more likely during a drought year.