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Published October 27, 2010
The fire season in the Southwest typically ramps up after the winter months, beginning in earnest around March and April and typically peaking in June and July before the monsoon rains begin. During the 2010 water year, copious winter storms produced heavy rain and snow in many parts of the Southwest and caused the Predictive Services at the Southwest Coordination Center (SWCC) to forecast below-normal fire potential for the higher elevations of the Colorado Plateau in northern New Mexico and Arizona. These areas experienced 100–200 percent of average snowpack and above-normal fire potential for southern Arizona, where winter rains helped quick-drying grasses flourish.
The late start to the monsoon season and weaker-than-average summer rains in some parts of the region allowed for increased fire activity in June and July. Overall, however, total acres burned in Arizona and New Mexico between January 1 and August 5 were well below average. Only about 62,000 acres burned in Arizona this year, about one-third of the 1990–2008 state yearly average of about 180,000 acres. The majority of the fires in Arizona occurred in the Mogollon Rim area and in the Sky Islands in southeast Arizona (Figure 5a). The largest blaze in Arizona was the Schultz fire, located four miles north of Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest. The fire was caused by an abandoned campfire and scorched more than 15,000 acres from June 20 through July 14.
More than 98,000 burned in New Mexico, falling below the 1990–2008 state yearly average of around 235,000 acres. Most fires occurred in the southeast (Figure 5b). The largest fires charred more than 17,000 acres (Table 4).
Southwest Climate Outlook Staff
- Michael Crimmins, UA Extension Specialist
- Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment Editor
- Gregg Garfin, Founding Editor, Institute of the Environment
- Zack Guido, Managing Editor, CLIMAS Associate Staff Scientist
- Nancy J. Selover, Arizona State Climatologist
- Jessica Dollin, CLIMAS Publications Assistant
- Dave Dubois, New Mexico State Climatologist
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
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