Earth Warms to 812F, experts baffled

Southern California Hot Spot Hits 812 Degrees, Baffles Experts

Photo:  Ventura County Fire Department

From FoxNews: The ground is so hot in one part of Southern California it can melt the shoes right off your feet.

An unexplained “thermal anomaly” caused a patch of land in Ventura County to reach a temperature of over 800 degrees on Friday, baffling experts who have been monitoring the area for weeks.

The anomaly was discovered after the land got so hot, it started a brush fire and burned three acres last month. Firefighters were brought to the scene after reports of a blaze, but by the time they arrived only smoldering dirt and brush remained.

Firefighters took no chances with the smoking ground, clearing brush near the fumes and cutting a fire line around the area to prevent a blaze from igniting.

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg

“We are a little perplexed at this point, to tell you the truth,” the Ventura County Star quoted geologist David Panaro as saying. “This is not your usual geological detective story.”

The area has recorded high temperatures at least five times since 1987, Allen King, a retired geologist with the U.S. Forest Service told the newspaper.

The hot spot is located in steep, rugged terrain a few miles north of the town of Fillmore on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and leased by Seneca Resources Corp.

Officials who are familiar with the patch of land, which is near the large Sespe Oil Field, have come up with a few theories as to why the ground soared to 812 degrees fahrenheit on August 1.

One theory is that natural hydrocarbons, such as oil or gas, are burning deep in the earth and seeping out through cracks in the area, causing the surface to rapidly heat and generate smoke.

According to the Star, Allen King, a former geologist with the U.S. Forest Service recently stuck a thermometer into the ground and got a reading of 550 degrees — so hot that it melted the glue holding the sole of his boots together.

“After that we were more cautious about standing in one place for too long,” he said.

h/t Gary Boden

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August 6, 2008 8:02 am

Sounds like something out of a Sci Fi novel.
Not much to go on, but it may be a vent area for an unknown volcano or simply some type of vent from the center of the earth!
But there’s a few questions also. If the ground is so hot it burned off the soles of one geologist, why didn’t it impact the firefighters? Also, if this has been known since 1987, why hasn’t it been publicized before?
Whew, still some more unknown for the simplistic folks at NASA to bury!
Jack Koenig, Editor
The Mysterious Climate Project

August 6, 2008 8:10 am

At first I thought you were yanking our chain. Could this be volcanic activity? There are many fault lines in the SoCal area.

JFA in Montreal
August 6, 2008 8:27 am

Isn’t that article title a tad off? It’s not the earth but a tiny piece of land that warms up.
I can see the alarmist watermelons get a field day !
JFA in Montreal

August 6, 2008 8:34 am
This happened here in Colorado Springs and they claim the problem was coal dust a few feet under the ground. It melted a kids shoes and burned his feet and he wasn’t standing on it very long at all.

August 6, 2008 8:36 am

Is this perhaps “Focused Global Warming”? Or will it teleconnect across the world?

August 6, 2008 8:43 am

There was an earthquake recently in the vicinity of Los Angeles.
There is very hot rock underneath us.
Earthquakes are known to open cracks in the crust.
Magma is known to flow upward through such cracks.
Big-time flows produce volcanoes. Lesser flows produce hot springs, geysers, as in Iceland.
Some mystery.
The only mystery to me is how these persons ever became qualified as experts on anything having to do with earth science.

August 6, 2008 8:48 am

Why not? – its next to Devils Heart peak

Pierre Gosselin
August 6, 2008 8:50 am

Anyone know how big (area) this hot-spot is?

August 6, 2008 9:13 am

And have they linked this to global warming yet? Should come in VERY handy to them…

August 6, 2008 9:21 am

I’m surprised they haven’t put a surface station there yet. Using Hansen’s adjustments, it would probably raise the temperature for all of California by about 50 degrees.

Bill in Vigo
August 6, 2008 9:26 am

A little off topic but has any one noticed that the NOAA site United States Climate Summary has now listed 2007 as the warmist year on record for the United States as it depicts the graphics of recent temperature changes.
I was just looking this morning and noticed that the rate of change had shifted and now it is warmer than just a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if the Mauna Loa data corrections might have wondered over into the temperature records (tongue in cheek). I am starting to have little faith in our great governmental science agencies. I think we are seeing positioning for future grants and this is disturbing to me.
Just food for thought.
Bill Derryberry

August 6, 2008 9:53 am

Will: I had the same thought: I am surprised they haven’t yet sited a USHCN station there. It is out in the middle of nowhere. Talk about getting cynical!

David Segesta
August 6, 2008 9:56 am

Well at least they aren’t blaming it on global warming…yet!

Ted Annonson
August 6, 2008 9:56 am

Great site for a geothermal power station. Must be even hotter below the surface.

August 6, 2008 9:58 am

I must be missing something – from NCSC front page “The average temperature in June 2008 was 70.4 F. This was 1.1 F warmer than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average, the 27th warmest June in 114 years. The temperature trend for the period of record (1895 to present) is 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. and then a few pages in
“…The combined average global land and ocean surface temperatures for June 2008 ranked eighth warmest for June since worldwide records began in 1880, according to an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Also, globally it was the ninth warmest January – June period on record. “

August 6, 2008 10:00 am

Whatever the source of the heat be it due to magma or an underground fire burning hydrocarbons the location would be worth investigating for a geothermal electricity generating station.

August 6, 2008 10:06 am

“I am starting to have little faith in our great governmental science agencies. I think we are seeing positioning for future grants and this is disturbing to me” Bill Derryberry
Where is faith in “truth, justice, and the American way”? We seem to be panicking as a culture. Calmness is the percentage play, even in combat, if I understand any history.

Bud the Chud
August 6, 2008 10:11 am

Are they sure that they didn’t see Moses and a burning bush around there somewhere?

Steven Hill
August 6, 2008 10:23 am

This has earthquake written all over it…….

August 6, 2008 10:23 am

So the burning of hydrocabons is perferctly natural? What’s all the fuss about me burning them in my car then?

craig Brown
August 6, 2008 10:25 am

Lewis and Clark in their journals wrote about the smokey hills as they where coming through South Dakota. West of Platte SD along the Mo. I beleive they’re still putting out smoke—

August 6, 2008 10:27 am

Try this L.A. Times story. The area is on a slow active landslide (loose soil) near an oil field. Seeping oil or gas is probably burning in loose ground, and heavy rain might put out the fire.,0,4689903.story
It’s probably not unusual. When any natural oil field fills up or is disturbed (seems likely in earthquake-prone California), there will be leakage.

August 6, 2008 10:42 am

One is Global, the other US only.

Leon Brozyna
August 6, 2008 10:56 am

The guy’s a little perplexed? Well, no wonder – he’s a geologist. He concerns himself with such trivial concerns as facts. Check with climatologists. I’m sure they can find many who’ll be quick to point out that it’s the fault of the folks at Sespe Oil field.
Hey governator, don’t throw your taxpayer dollars at an imaginary problem when you have a real problem all nice and self contained in California. Maybe you need to drill more oil wells to pull all that oil out of the ground before it burns.

Quentin--The Uncomfortable Truth
August 6, 2008 10:59 am

Looks like free energy to me!
Let’s grab it.

Steve Keohane
August 6, 2008 11:07 am

Here in Garfield County, Colorado, along I-70 near MM 100 is an underground coal fire that has been burning for over 100 years. The heated seam is most visible in winter, a lack of snow thereon. In 2002 it broke to the surface and 12,000 acres burned. Many attempts have been made to extinguish it, none successful.

August 6, 2008 11:12 am

There are fires that are burning underground in some of the old coal mines in the West Virginia, Pennsylvania area. Never heard of an underground oil/gas fire but I don’t see why not.

Paul Shanahan
August 6, 2008 11:14 am


Bern Bray
August 6, 2008 11:47 am

“the location would be worth investigating for a geothermal electricity generating station”
/sarcasm on/
Next you’ll be wanting to build transmission lines to get that electricity someplace useful. I’m sure that we can find some ant that has a tiny white dot on it’s third right toe, who’s habitat would be endangered by such a project.
It’s best if we just sit around our buffalo chip fires and “save the earth”. All except algore that is.
/sarcasm depleted/

August 6, 2008 11:48 am

“There are fires that are burning underground in some of the old coal mines in the West Virginia, Pennsylvania area.” BarryW
Where do they get the oxygen? It would seem that just closing all openings to the surface would extinguish them.

Earle Williams
August 6, 2008 11:50 am

Underground coal fire is the first thing that comes to mind. The outcrops in the top photo show a dipping sedimentary formation so coal or some other combustible rock may have ignited.
Back in the 1990s I was working for the U.S. Bureau of Mines developing geophysical methods to monitor underground coal fires. Unfortunately the agency was eliminated and the research was cut short. I had investigated a couple of known underground fires and they appeared on the surface much like this one.

August 6, 2008 11:51 am

It is spontaneous combustion. Basically you have oil-soaked soil baking in the hot sun. Oily rags will do the same thing in a garage if they are sitting in a sunbeam.
The article is correct, once the rains come and close up the cracks in the surface, the oily dirt will no longer get air and it will go out.
What is really funny is when every once in a while a sidewalk in Burbank or Hollywood catches fire from a natural gas seep through the pavement. Someone will toss a match from lighting a cigarette and the sidewalk will catch fire for a little while. It amazes the tourists!

Jack Simmons
August 6, 2008 11:53 am

Steve Keohane (11:07:33) :
You would be very interested in the archived news story regarding the start of the fire you referred to in your comment.
Years ago, some of the old timers in Glenwood Springs and Newcastle would talk of relatives and friends who had died in the coal mine disaster there. The living memories of those times are fading away fast .
There are also some burning coal seams by Paonia Colorado. These had evidently been started by lightning. There have been some attempts to put them out, but unsuccessful so far.
This is almost like the opening scenes in the Tommy Lee Jones movie Volcano.

August 6, 2008 11:56 am

On a different note, it’s the 6th of the month and the Satellite people haven’t released their monthly temperature anomalies yet. Don’t they know we’re waiting with baited breath????

August 6, 2008 12:07 pm

statePoet1775 (11:48:17) :
Basically there are enough fractures and old air vents in the ground and the veins are shallow enough that they get enough oxygen. They’re not roaring fires just a slow smolder. At least one town I’ve heard of may have to be abandoned since the vein goes right under the town.
Here’s a wikipedia reference

August 6, 2008 12:18 pm

“waiting with baited breath”
You eating sushi again?
But yeah, the satellite data seems late this month, I am interested too.

Scott Covert
August 6, 2008 12:21 pm

A night-time thermal image of the area would be interesting. A vertical shot from a couple hundred feet up might show a fault line or more undiscovered hot spots.

August 6, 2008 12:30 pm

It’s the Mole People! They are pissed and they are on their way to the surface!
I warned you all this day would come!
Repent now sinners!

Bud the Chud
August 6, 2008 12:30 pm

@statePoet1775 and BarryW
Underground coal fires are nothing new, some have been burning for centuries.

Pierre Gosselin
August 6, 2008 12:31 pm

I’m just having some fun at
Looking at the CO2 emissions globally, Bush/Cheney are among the few worldwide who have managed to REDUCE CO2 emissions.
Gore/Clinton USA CO2 emissions
1993: 5.6 billion tonnes CO2
2000: over 6.3 billion
Rate of increase: approx 900 million tonnes per annum
2001: 6.3 billion tonnes
2006: 6.5 billion tonnes
Rate of increase: approx 40 million tonnes per year
CO2 emissions growth during the Gore/Clinton years was more than 20 times more than Bush/Cheney.
During the Bush years, CO2 emissions indeed began to fall.
I’ll leave it up to you on what to conclude from all this.

August 6, 2008 12:32 pm

Are you sure Al Gore wasn’t making a speech in the area?

Tom in Texas
August 6, 2008 1:02 pm

If you haven’t seen this new game yet, check it out. It’s called floodsim.
London under water. More propaganda for the kids.

Richard deSousa
August 6, 2008 1:15 pm

Do I hear the “Twilight Zone” theme in the background?… 😉

August 6, 2008 1:19 pm

BarryW and Bud the Chud,

August 6, 2008 1:42 pm

Hold up on that suggestion to feature FloodSim made by Tom, Mr. Watts. If you check out the webpage, there is only a single reference to climate change, and that’s on the “Norwich Union” page which highlights the purpose behind the game quite clearly:
Norwich Union has developed this innovative project with PlayGen to help raise awareness of the flooding issue.
The 2007 floods cost the UK’s insurance industry approximately £3 billion, and thanks to climate change, the chances of similar floods occurring are higher than ever before.
As the UK’s largest insurer, flooding is a big issue for both Norwich Union and millions of our customers. For this reason, we work hard with the Government and many other organisations to keep flooding at the top of the political agenda.
By working in partnership with a variety of organisations, representing a number of different interests and policy areas, we can ensure that our concerns and those of our customers are widely known.

In other words, while one could construe climate change as a possible cause of flooding, this game is merely to raise awareness to an important issue which affects the citizens of the UK. Perhaps if a similar game was published to illustrate the dangers of what could happen should the New Orleans levees be breached in a storm, more citizens would have been willing to evacuate – but that is a tangential, moot point.
The bottom line is that once again, this has nothing to do with “propaganda for the kids.” It’s a game whose premise is manufactured to raise awareness about the dangers and reality of flooding. It isn’t even directly associated with global warming. Flooding is one of the most dangerous killers in meteorology and one of the most costliest as well; this game is merely meant to raise awareness of this fact and educate its players that there are most definitely reasonable and effective means available to safeguard against the loss of property and life should one ever be unfortunate enough to be caught in a flood.
Let’s be rational, Tom, and not try to link everything to some conspiracy to brainwash people into believing global warming.

Jon Jewett
August 6, 2008 1:46 pm

Pierre Gosselin
In order to SAVE THE EARTH, we should nominate Bush/Chaney to a third term! The Constitution is just a trivial nuisance if we really want to make a difference. I have read that the Bush/Chaney administration has made the USA number 2 in the world, just behind France, in reducing CO2 emissions. But then the French are so much more nuanced, advanced and sophisticated than us: they get some 70% of their electricity from nuclear power and they even recycle their used nuclear fuel! (That putz Jimmy Carter outlawed recycling of used fuel.)
If reducing CO2 is important, Bush/Chaney are the ones that have proven that they can do it. As they say on the docks in New Jersey: Money talks and BS walks. (I.e. Actions are more important than promises.)
Steamboat Jack
File under sarcasm and irony

Arthur Glass
August 6, 2008 2:42 pm

‘Teach your children well.’
Confessions of a Weather Weenie.
When I went to school– I swore I would swallow my tongue before I ever said that phrase–but when I went to school, in seventh grade science class we had a unit on meteorology. If you paid attention, you came out knowing the layers of the atmosphere from the troposphere up; you knew the classification of clouds, cumulus, stratus, nimbus, and my perennial favorite, cumulo-nimbus. You learned about the Coriolis effect, and why hurricanes in the North Atlantic spin counter-clockwise (this was back in the late ’50’s of the last century, when hurricanes hitting or at least threatening the northeast coastline from Virginia Beach to Kennebunkport were to late summer and early fall what blizzards were to winter
Since the powers that be are so serious about having children learn about atmospheric dynamics, I wonder whether we shall see in future an increasing emphasis on such basic knowledge. Or will it all be Al Gore Playstation fingerpainting with its upside down charts and backwards hurricanes?

James S
August 6, 2008 3:00 pm

Not sure what the rock type in the area is but it sounds to me as something a little similar to Dorset’s burning cliffs.

August 6, 2008 3:25 pm

There was a fire underground from chemical waste in Avonmouth UK that burned for about 20 years and created a crater at the surface; it was eventually put out I believe.
How much do natural leaks and vents contribute to global GHG? When I looked at global maps of SST variations it seemed from the fast-changing anomalies, that there was a lot of minor vulcanism.
Slightly OT, but – what about the methane supposedly outgassing from parts of Siberia so that you can light the ground with a match? Is that getting any worse or any better?

August 6, 2008 4:13 pm

Growing up in northeast Ohio, there were places in our neighborhood that every pyromaniac kid [ie, all the boys] knew about, where you could throw down a lit match and the natural gas seepage would ignite.
It would keep burning [a low flame, about like a gas oven on High] until the wind or rain put it out. Sometimes the flares were bigger and the fire department had to be called. They would blast the flare with CO2 until it went out. With actual CO2! O the humanity!!

Ted Annonson
August 6, 2008 4:18 pm

In northern Minnesota, during the early 1930’s, there was a huge underground fire that burned many square miles of a peat formation. I was pretty young at the time but I remember my dad had to rebuild roads that had caved in where the fire had undercut them.
I’ed like to see the July numbers too.
I keep praying that a blizzard hits DC in early January and lasts long enough tha the new congress can’t convene and the inauguration has to be postponed for a few weeks. Maybe then we won’t get that cap and trade BS. I’ed hate to have my boys have to go to India or China to get a new job.

August 6, 2008 6:31 pm

OT, I expect the July numbers to be ‘disappointing’. I check AMSU every day and the temps since the middle of July have been a bit warmer than 2007.

August 6, 2008 6:38 pm

Place ur bets. I’m guessing UAH will come in at .23 C positive anomaly.

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