If you’ve been watching us on Weather Nation today, one of our big headlines has been the fantastic warmth on the way for many folks in the nation’s midsection. 70s and 80s on the way for places that haven’t seen them in many months (Minneapolis’ 75ish high today would be the first 70 since October of 2013).
Warm conditions in spring often bring lots of wind – and that’s where we get into the fire weather risk zone.
As Smokey The Bear says: “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” (He’s seen below, courtesy of the Wisconsin DNR)
Let’s examine today’s heightened fire weather risk. We have all probably experienced conditions that *seem* prone to fire. Drought conditions dry out the foliage, windy conditions exist that could fan flames (have you ever blown into a dying fire to give it a few more minutes of life?), and in some places you end up getting dry thunderstorms – where rain drys before reaching the ground, but storms produce lightning nonetheless.
So let’s examine the fire risk for today and see what some of the reasoning is behind that…
See the zone from SW Minnesota all the way to the Texas Panhandle? That’s a big chunk of land under a “critical” risk for wildfires.
Looking up the definition for the different risk levels, I found this tidbit:
The outlook type depends upon the severity of the forecast weather, antecedent conditions, and climatology relative to the given geographic region. Critical Fire Weather Areas for Wind and Relative Humidity are typically issued when strong winds (>20 mph) and low RH are expected to occur where dried fuels exist. Critical Fire Weather for Dry Thunderstorms are typically issued when widespread or numerous thunderstorms producing little wetting rain (<0.10 in) are expected to occur where dried fuels exist. Extremely Critical Fire Weather Areas for Wind and Relative Humidity are issued when very strong winds and very low RH are expected to occur with very dry fuels. Extremely Critical areas will be rarely issued, similar to the very low frequency of High Risk Convective Outlooks.
That is from the Storm Prediction Center’s website.
This is from the same place, but it goes more in-depth on our current fire weather situation for today:
A LARGE AREA OF THE MIDWEST IS EXPECTED TO HAVE CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS FROM THE LATE MORNING INTO THE EVENING. AN INTENSE UPPER DISTURBANCE AND ASSOCIATED SFC LOW CROSSING SCNTRL CANADA COMBINED WITH STRONG ZONAL FLOW OVER THE NRN ROCKIES WILL PRODUCE A SURFACE TROUGH FROM THE DAKOTAS...SWD INTO THE OK/TX PNHDL. SURFACE AND BOUNDARY LAYER WINDS ACROSS THE MIDWEST WILL BECOME STRONG W/SWLY AND VERY STRONG DRYING AND WARMING WILL ALSO TAKE PLACE.
In layman’s terms (sort of) – the meaning of what is being said above is the following: “A storm system is moving in and producing dry winds that will be gusty with very dry surface conditions – which will enhance fire weather risks.”
The final takeaway from this is that you should avoid doing any sort of burning in the spots in this fire risk zone for today. Tomorrow things will calm down a bit for that region.
WeatherNation Meteorologist Aaron Shaffer @ashafferWNTV