June was a hot and dry month across Arizona with little in the way of precipitation and lots in the way of wind and extreme fire weather. This isn’t all that unusual for June in Arizona, but temperatures were exceptionally warm and passing weather systems brought unwelcome wind which periodically enhanced fire danger to extreme levels. The weather pattern throughout the month was a battle between the strengthening sub-tropical high to our south and late season spring storm pushing through the Southwest from the north. (read more)
It was one year ago that lightning struck and ignited the Yarnell Hill Fire, a devastating wildfire that resulted in the deaths of 19 firefighters who were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. This year, a combination of drought conditions, high winds and high temperatures all call for an intense fire season. Predictions indicate above-normal fire potential, and indicators suggest the onset of the monsoon season will be delayed.
Since October, we've had very low precipitation – averaging less than half of average across large portions of the state – accompanied by low snowpack and temperatures that have been well above average.
The combination of these factors, along with bursts of dry winds that are typical for the spring, gives us conditions of above-normal fire potential, which is what the Southwest Coordination Center, the main fire prediction center for our region, predicted beginning in late January. (read more)
Just how old are the forests in the Chuska Mountains in the northeastern part of the Navajo Nation? How might those forests fare in a climate that will be warmer and probably drier than anything they've ever experienced?
In early June I had the chance to tromp around in the woods with a group of experts working to answer these questions. Our intrepid leader was UA Laboratory of Tree Ring Research PhD student Chris Guiterman who—I now know—is a man with a plan. The plan goes something like this...(read more)
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In the June Southwest Climate Podcast, CLIMAS climate scientists Zack Guido and Mike Crimmins discuss the ongoing drought conditions (especially at Mike's house), the recent slowdown of a seemingly inevitable El Niño event, and potential impacts of a climate collision between the El Niño and the Monsoon. The next 6 months will be interesting…(more)