Continuing hot, dry weather in much of California and parts of the Pacific Northwest have combined to create a tinderbox of standing timber and grasslands through the summer of 2014. According to the United States Drought Monitor, by August 5, seasonable dryness along the West Coast left the regionís longer-term drought unchanged. Major reservoirs in California on August 5 were reported to be, in aggregate, 59% of the historical average, with some levels below the extreme drought levels attained in 1977.
With so much land primed to burn, simple sparks from machinery, human carelessness, or lightening strikes have turned the tinderbox into an inferno, especially in northern California. This true-color image captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASAís Terra satellite on August 3 shows the intensity of smoky scene in the Pacific Northwest on that date.
A cluster of three fires in central Oregon, marked by red hotspots, is accompanied by minimal smoke which hangs low over the fires. Several clusters of fires in northern California, including the Beaver Complex Fire on the border of California and Oregon are producing voluminous smoke as they rage through heavy timber. The plume reaches high aloft, and has spread across northern California, central and eastern Oregon and into Idaho.
As of August 14, substantial fire activity continues in both northern California and Oregon. Heavy winds ahead of a significant storm caused a dramatic dust storm in Oregon on August 11, and these winds made fire control dicey, causing some blazes to jump containment lines. The rain that followed, however, has assisted firefighting efforts and slowed fire growth.