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 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.
May has already surpassed several years in terms of the number 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 United States. Take a look at the weather alerts that were in place Sunday evening; most of these alerts continue into the work week.
As you can tell, there is a huge area of the southwestern U.S. 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, New Mexico, and the high winds and dry air continue to make firefighting efforts tough.
There has been such little moisture around the Four Corners area in southwestern Colorado 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 Sunday into Monday, a rare nighttime red flag warning was issued for areas of southern Colorado. The National Weather Service in Pueblo said that nighttime red flag warnings make up less than 1% 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 stagnant upper air pattern has set up over Colorado. The jet stream is poised to move from 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 southwest to northeast winds over Colorado, will continue to bring varying intensities of fire danger to Colorado all week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and possibly even Saturday will likely come with at least breezy conditions (gusts over 20 mph) and low humidity values (under 15%). These could be the most intense on Monday and Thursday.
The forecast for Colorado Springs this week calls for blowing dust on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at least. Air quality issues will be present most of the week due to the dust and dirt. High temperatures will be 5-15 degrees above average during the week, and 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 Fort Collins to Pueblo and out to the Kansas and Nebraska borders.
Areas of the San Luis Valley and the rest of southern Colorado will see a very windy and dusty week.
If the amount of fire danger we saw in April, and again this week, is a precursor to how the summer may end up, we’re in for quite a ride.
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