Wildfire spreads in southwestern United States

Tuesday, August 8, 2023


A series of dry thunderstorms forecasted to sweep through the southwestern United States from Wednesday to Friday poses a significant wildfire threat, particularly in the mountainous regions of California.

These storms, characterised by lightning but minimal rainfall, are notorious for igniting rapid-spreading wildfires, especially given the current conditions as the region enters peak wildfire season.

The dry thunderstorms’ origins lie in the residual energy of Post Tropical Cyclone Eugene, which will move ashore in California accompanied by some moisture. While the increased humidity triggers storms across the mountains of Southern California and the Sierra Nevada, the lack of ground-level moisture results in limited rainfall from these storms, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty.

States including Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah will also face the risk of these dry storms, with the likelihood of ignition rising over higher elevations during the day before tapering off at night.

Although California has seen fewer active fires in August compared to recent years, the heightened danger of new fires persists due to the depletion of the snowpack at lower elevations. Dry vegetation acts as kindling for lightning strikes in the mountains and foothills. Furthermore, gusty winds accompanying thunderstorms could rapidly escalate the spread of fires.

The threat of dry storms and potential wildfires is not confined to California and the Southwest. AccuWeather forecasts that the energy and moisture linked to these storms will expand to the Northwest over the weekend, with thunderstorms expected in regions of northern Sierra Nevada, southern Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming.

The imminent return of high pressure to the West next week will likely quell the threat of thunderstorms, providing some relief from the risk of wildfire ignition. However, until then, residents and authorities are advised to remain vigilant and prepared for the potential outbreaks of new fires brought about by these dry thunderstorms.

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