A Striking August: Lightning and Wildfires with Chris Giesige

Lightning flashes through purple clouds over the horizon glowing orange.

In August 2020, Northern California was ignited by a series of 650 wildfires spurred by dry lightning from rare, massive summer thunderstorms. Today, all of California is experiencing drought conditions and fire season is well underway.

On the one year anniversary of the lightning storms wildfire researcher and lightning scientist Chris Giesige presented on the weather and climate conditions that made the August 2020 lightning events possible and shared a peek at what the future may hold for wildfires in California. Explore how we classify the weather and atmospheric conditions that create fire weather and behavior, why those conditions aided the events of last August, and explore wildfire in California more generally.


About the Speaker

Chris Giesige has studied fire science and conducted lightning research for over a decade. His research is focused on wildfires and seasonal and short term lightning development during the summer through fall months. Through the WestCats Group, he and his team are currently working on developing a new sensor network for better lightning forecasting for wildfire events.

This program is part of the series CZU AND YOU: Resources for Recovery, Preparedness, and Ecological Understanding from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and Santa Cruz Public Libraries | August 2021

Weather Observation Activity | 3rd grade

Careful observation and data collection are practices that all scientists and naturalists employ to aid in exploring and understanding the natural world. Weather provides a great way for students to practice both, as they watch from their window or take measurements outside. As students begin to detect patterns and notice differences in weather, questions emerge: how do clouds affect temperature? What about wind? Is what I’m seeing normal for this time of year? Diving into weather observations reveals a world of phenomena at play all around us every day.

This lesson is designed to run over the course of a week or more, requiring small time commitments of 5-10 minutes each day from individual students and then either group or self-reflection and analysis at the conclusion.


Weather Observation Teacher Guide (PDF | HTML)
Weather Observation Data Sheet (PDF | HTML)

Optional: Pair this lesson with our Cloud Observation Activity.

Post by: Spencer