Wildfire Risk Elevated in Midwest and Northeast as Drought Expands
June 7, 2023
Posted: May 13, 2022 8:16 am
As a fire rages in Southern California, more bad news is on the way in the form of triple digit temperatures for parts of the Southwest in the coming days.
A dome of heat over the southwestern corner of the U.S. is set to send temperatures climbing to about 10 – 20 degrees above normal over the weekend. This rapid rise in temperatures may come as a shock to an area that has seen unseasonably cool readings over the last few days thanks to a southward plunge in the jet stream.
For example, it was warmer in Chicago this week than in Death Valley, California where it only hit 78 degrees on Wednesday. This reading is far lower than the average high of 99 degrees on this date.
Atmospheric conditions will change over the next few days, bringing an end to the record-breaking heat in the southern Plains and Midwest and delivering warmer weather to what has been the chilly West. This change in the weather patterns throughout the nation will happen as the jet stream finally begins to lift toward the north. This movement will make way for the heat that is now positioned over Mexico to inch up into the Southwest.
As the jet stream lifts, a heat dome will form over the Southwest beginning later this weekend and continuing through next week. The heat will start to build on Saturday throughout the Southeast and into the South Central states. This means that cities such as Phoenix are forecast to hit the triple digits to start the weekend.
The Valley of the Sun did not even make it out of the 80s on Wednesday. Phoenix has only seen a reading of over 100 degrees once this year when the mercury made it to 102 degrees. That is all about to change when the city experiences a streak of consecutive days in the triple digits. The forecast calls for temperatures of at least 100 degrees or above through the middle of next week.
The heat will stretch to more areas on Sunday, moving to the east to encompass New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and beyond. The temperature readings will make it feel as if it were the middle of summer in many of these places with some daily records challenged.
These elevated readings are predicted to hang on until at least Monday with some areas seeing the heat in place through the bulk of next week. It will not be until later in the week that a shift within the upper levels of the atmosphere clears the way for cooler temperatures to arrive.
For instance, the daily record high for May 15 in Flagstaff is 81 degrees, going all the way back to 1937. With a forecast high of 80 degrees on Sunday, this record may have the chance to fall. Farther to the south in Arizona, Tucson will also come close to beating its record high of 104 degrees on Sunday.
The exceptionally dry ground is one of the reasons why it will not take long for the area to quickly warm up once the jet stream lifts. Because this region of the country continues to grapple with an unprecedented drought, the ground is able to take on heat at a faster clip, warming the air temperature in the process. This is largely because the solar radiation is able to penetrate the ground more directly without moisture in place to evaporate and cool the atmosphere.
All of the Southwest is under the minimum designation of abnormally dry conditions as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Within this region, almost 60% of California is under the category of extreme drought, the second-highest category defined by the monitoring service.
California is not the only state out West dealing with extreme drought. Las Vegas has only recorded 8% of its normal rainfall by this time of the year. Los Angeles and Phoenix have not fared much better with each city sitting at about 20% of average rainfall for the year.
At least 20 homes have been destroyed as a result of a brush fire that quickly took root and spread on Wednesday afternoon in Orange County in Southern California. The fire ignited just before 3 pm local time, exploding in size at a fast clip. The wildfire was burning approximately 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles between Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo. Approximately 900 homes have been evacuated as of Thursday.
It only took about an hour for the blaze to burn through nearly 200 acres. Coastal winds helped to spread the flames, sending residents fleeing from their homes. However, the main culprit in the speed in which the flames spread was the dry vegetation surrounding the area.
This fire is just the start of what experts are warning could be a record-breaking fire season.
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June 6, 2023