Extreme Temperature Diary- Saturday April 23rd, 2022/Main Topic: Fire Season Starts Way Too Early in the Southwest

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Fire Season Starts Way Too Early in the Southwest

Dear Diary. The last three days I concentrated on Earth Day items but was very tempted to table these because of one extreme climate crisis item currently taking place across the southwestern United States. Today let’s catch up with wildfire news there. As feared all winter and early spring long, historic western drought and waves of heat have culminated in very early conflagrations, particularly from Arizona northeast towards Colorado and the western High Plains.

Just today alone fire weather advisories (red flag) are widespread across the Southwest and western Plains (As an aside, we also have a blizzard occurring from the northern Rockies into the Dakotas.):

Today’s red flag warnings are right over the worst of our widespread ongoing historic drought described as the worst in 1,200 years:

Drought Outlook

For today’s main topic use, here are two articles from my friends at the Washington Post describing the worst of the conflagrations, the Arizona Tunnel fire:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2022/04/20/tunnel-fire-arizona-winds-drought/

CAPITAL WEATHER GANG

Tunnel Fire in Arizona nearly triples in size amid high winds

Low humidity and drought also aid the blaze’s rapid spread

By Kasha Patel and Jason Samenow April 20, 2022 at 4:11 p.m. EDT

Smoke from the Tunnel Fire fills the sky in Doney Park, outside Flagstaff, Ariz., on April 19. (Cheryl L. Miller-Woody/AP)

Strong winds are rapidly spreading a fire about 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Ariz., as authorities call for hundreds of homes to be evacuated.

As of Wednesday morning, the Tunnel Fire in Coconino County had grown to more than 16,000 acres — expanding from only 6,000 acres on Tuesday evening. The U.S. Forest Service’s InciWeb stated the fire was reported on Sunday at 4:22 p.m. and the cause is under investigation.

The county sheriff’s office estimated about 25 structures were lost and more than 250 structures are threatened. Some flames were reportedly 100 feet high, while winds reached 50 mph.

The blaze, which is zero percent contained, shut down Route 89 in both directions north of Flagstaff. The highway will be closed for several days due to firefighting operations, the Forest Service reported.

Fueled by climate change, costly Southwest drought isn’t going away

The Tunnel Fire burns near Flagstaff on April 19. (Coconino National Forest/AP)

On Tuesday, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency due to the fire’s impacts, allowing the county to expend emergency funds. The Forest Service reported that approximately 260 firefighters, three bulldozers, 24 engines, one air-attack plane and one Type 3 helicopter were battling the blaze.

The fire exploded amid very strong winds and low humidity. The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center had declared “critical” fire weather as the flames spread Tuesday, cautioning that relative humidity levels would drop as low as 10 to 15 percent amid winds of 20 to 30 mph, gusting to 50 mph. A wind advisory and red flag warning, for dangerous fire weather, were also in effect.

Winds eased some on Wednesday, but dangerous fire weather is expected to return Thursday. A fire weather watch is in effect for much of northern Arizona due to low humidity and winds that could gust to 35 mph.

“The combination of gusty winds and low humidity can cause fire to rapidly grow in size and intensity before first responders” can contain it, the Weather Service office serving Flagstaff wrote.

It will remain windy on Friday, but humidity is forecast to increase.

“Dry weather and lighter winds are forecast for the weekend,” the Weather Service in Flagstaff wrote in a discussion.

Severe to exceptional drought covers much of the western half of the United States. Eight-six percent of Arizona is enduring drought conditions, according the federal government’s drought monitor.

Southwest drought is the most extreme in 1,200 years, study finds

The National Interagency Fire Center predicted above-normal fire activity for the Southwest this spring and summer, given an expectation for abnormally warm and dry weather in the coming months.

Human-caused climate change, which raises temperatures and intensifies dry conditions, is increasing the threat of fast-moving blazes. Springtime temperatures in Arizona rose more than two degrees over the past 45 years. A 2016 report by Climate Central, a nonprofit science communication group, found that Arizona is expected to see more than a month of additional high-risk fire days each year by 2050.6 CommentsGift Article

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By Kasha Patel edits and reports on the weather, climate and environment for the Capital Weather Gang at The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, she covered Earth sciences and satellite research for NASA.  Twitter

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By Jason Samenow is The Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang’s chief meteorologist. He earned a master’s degree in atmospheric science and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.  Twitter

And…

https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/e2-80-98extreme-e2-80-99-fire-conditions-threaten-colorado-new-mexico-into-friday/ar-AAWsl7l?ocid=uxbndlbing

The Washington Post

‘Extreme’ fire conditions threaten Colorado, New Mexico into Friday

Matthew Cappucci – Thursday 4/21/2022

A bout of strong winds overlapping with bone-dry weather will lead to a major episode of dangerous wildfire conditions across parts of Colorado and New Mexico on Friday.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has placed cities including Colorado Springs and Pueblo, Colo., and Albuquerque in a top-tier “extremely critical” risk category, writing that a “volatile combination of very strong/gusty winds, anomalously warm/dry conditions, and near-record dry fuels will encourage extreme fire-weather conditions.”Tunnel Fire in Arizona nearly triples in size amid high winds

Red-flag warnings, which highlight the potential for rapid fire spread, blanket New Mexico, eastern Colorado and the Texas Panhandle, as well as much of Arizona, western Nebraska and western Kansas.

Fire conditions will begin to manifest Thursday, especially in the Southwest, before worsening into Friday and expanding into the eastern Rockies and western Great Plains. That’s when the Weather Service warns the weather “will become favorable for rapid fire growth and erratic fire behavior.”

“Fires may quickly become out of control,” it writes, with winds forecast to gust between 45 and 60 mph. High-wind watches stretch from the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles through the High Plains and into the Sandhills of Nebraska.

Peak wind gusts forecast from the National Weather Service through Saturday.

This is occurring as the Tunnel Fire northeast of Flagstaff, Ariz., had burned nearly 20,000 acres as of Wednesday evening. The fire tripled in size from Tuesday, torching two dozen structures and forcing the closure of Interstate 89.

Related items:

Here are some hot forecasts:

Here is more climate and weather news from Saturday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid war on Ukraine:

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

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