Unfortunately, you read that title right. Fire danger is expected to stay high for several days in a row this week across Colorado. This is coming off the most active April ever in terms of fire danger present and is also coming off a weekend where fire danger was high. High fire danger has two main ingredients; low humidity and wind. Most annoyingly to many, the wind will be back at high levels for a while. So, the saga continues.
May has already surpassed several years in terms of the amount of Red Flag Warnings that have been issued across the state but when looking at the trends, we should start to see fire conditions become less common come July. Of course, some of our largest wildfires in Colorado have occurred in the late-summer months so there is no reason to see this “trend” as a positive thing.
The incoming fire weather is coinciding with extremely dry conditions all across the southwest US. Take a look at the weather alerts that were in place Sunday evening. Most of these alerts continue into the workweek.
As you can tell, there is a huge area of the southwestern US that is being impacted by high winds and low humidity which in turn makes heightened fire conditions. There are already several large wildfires burning around Santa Fe, NM and the high winds and continuous dry air continue to make fire fighting efforts tough.
There has been such little moisture around the Four Corners that the wind is picking up loads of dust and transporting it across state lines. That same wind is what is bringing heavy smoke to areas of Colorado too.
Overnight into Monday, a rare nocturnal red flag warning was issued for areas of southern Colorado. The National Weather Service in Pueblo explained that nocturnal Red Flag Warnings make up less than 1-percent of all Red Flag Warnings that are issued.
This overnight Red Flag Warning is going to kick off a week full of fire danger and more wind. A very stangant upper air pattern has set up over us. The Jet Stream is poised to move southwest to northeast from California/Arizona to Nebraska/Wyoming for the majority of this week. That leaves Colorado smack dab in the path of dry, windy, warm air.
This weather pattern, with SW to NE winds over Colorado, will continue to bring varying intensities of fire danger to Colorado this entire week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and possibly even Saturday of this week will likely come with at least breezy conditions (gusts over 20mph) and low humidity values (under 15 percent humidity). These could be the most intense on Monday and Thursday of this week.
The forecast for Colorado Springs calls for blowing dust on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at least. Air quality issues will be present most of this week as well due to the dust and dirt. High temperatures will be 5-15 degrees above-average this week but Wednesday will be the hottest day across the state. Temperatures could reach upwards of 20-25 degrees above-average across eastern Colorado. That leaves us with highs in the upper 80s to mid 90s from Ft. Collins to Pueblo and out to the Kansas and Nebraska borders.
Areas of the San Luis Valley and the rest of southern Colorado need to note that this week will be a very windy and dusty week. Everyone across the state of Colorado needs to be aware that this week is not a week to play around with sparks. Do not throw cigarette butts out your car. If you’re driving with a trailer, be sure to check that the chains are not dragging on the road. No fireworks. No campfires, etc.
We are too familiar with fire danger recently but we have to stay diligent and do what we can to minimize the risk of a fire igniting. If this week, if April, is a precursor to how this summer may end up, we’re in for quite the ride.