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March Climate Madness — Wildfires, Scorching Summer Heat Strike Central and Southwestern U.S. By Winter’s End

In Colorado today the news was one of fire. There, a wildfire just south of Boulder had forced emergency officials to evacuate 1,000 residents as more than 2,000 others were put on alert Sunday. Smoke poured into neighborhoods as dead trees killed by invasive beetles or a developing drought, exploded into flames. Depleted snowpacks along the front range of the Rockies combined with temperatures in the 80s and 90s on Sunday to increase the fire risk. Thankfully, so far, there have been no reports of injuries or property loss. A relieving contrast to the massive fires recently striking Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma — where farmers and communities are still recovering.

(The ignition source for the recent fire near Boulder appears to be due to human activity. But the on-the ground climate conditions enhancing tree deaths, reducing snow packs, and blanketing the region with record or near record heat increases the likelihood that a spark will turn into a dangerous fire.)

The record heat building into Colorado on Sunday and contributing to increased wildfire risk had spread up into the Central U.S. from the Desert Southwest. There, cities like Phoenix have experienced summer-like heat for at least the past week. On Sunday, the city saw a second day of record temperatures as the mercury hit 96 degrees (Fahrenheit). Saturday temperatures were almost as hot at 95 F. This was the 8th consecutive day of 90 degree (F) or hotter temperatures (the record stretch of 90 degree + readings for March was set in 1972 at 17 days). Meanwhile, forecast highs in the mid 90s for Phoenix today set the possibility for another record-breaker.

Much of the southwest also experienced record or near-record temperatures. Las Vegas broke new records Sunday as the thermometer struck past 90 (F). Meanwhile, Yuma broke its previous daily record high on Sunday as temperatures rocketed to 98 F.

(Extreme heat builds through the Central and Southwest U.S. on monday as a wildfire forces evacuations south of Boulder, Colorado. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Today, heat is also expected to again build into the central U.S. as parts of Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado are predicted to experience temperatures ranging from the upper 80s to well into the mid 90s. Pecos is expected to hit 96 F — which is about 20 degrees (F) above average for a typical March day. And in some regions, such as parts of Kansas, these temperature departures are as much as 25 F above normal. These extreme high temperatures are expected to break numerous records for the region as most of the previous record highs for this area range in the upper 80s.

The heat will bring with it more risk of wildfires and a front sweeping in on Tuesday could increase windspeeds and dry conditions for some regions. Record warm global temperatures, (spurred by human greenhouse gas emissions primarily coming from fossil fuel burning) which are aiding in the systemic, longer term, loss of ice and snow cover while increasing the rate at which drought sets in and spiking the top potential range of temperatures during heatwaves, appears to be combining with a post La Nina trend that typically favors heat and drying in the Central U.S. to set the stage for these extreme conditions.

Links:

Fire Near Boulder Forces Evacuations

Drought Monitor

Will Phoenix Break Heat Records for Three Days in a Row?

Record Heat: Hot Temperatures Continue Today

Climate Reanalyzer

Hat tip to Andy in San Diego

Hat tip to Robert Prue

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24 Comments

  1. Suzanne

     /  March 20, 2017

    Great Minds…Bob Henson just put up this post today…
    “Tornado Risk Amping Up this Week and Beyond” and he also talks about the CO fires in this post:
    https://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/tornado-risk-amping-up-this-week-and-beyond

    Reply
    • Genomik

       /  March 20, 2017

      Wow Suzanne, that’s a article dense w news. Look at all the damage to fruit that the hot spell followed by frost did:

      “Widespread damage from Southeast freeze
      At least 90 percent of the peach crop in South Carolina (the nation’s top peach producer behind California) was wiped out by freezing temperatures late last week, according to the state’s agriculture commissioner. The state’s wheat and corn fields also suffered heavy damage, reported WISTV. A less severe freeze in Georgia may have ruined anywhere from 25 to 75 percent of that state’s peach crop. Blueberries across the Southeast also experienced major damage, as summarized by Louisville, KY, broadcast meteorologist John Belski. It dropped to 25°F in Gainesville, FL, on Thursday morning, the coldest reading for so late in the year in more than a century of Gainesville records. Jacksonville’s 28°F was also a record for so late in the year.”

      Reply
    • Excellent and very detailed work by Bob here. Thanks for sharing and an excellent counter-point to the heat records in that all the heat loading appears to be setting up a rather extreme weather situation for Tues/Wed in the Central U.S.

      Reply
  2. Suzanne

     /  March 20, 2017

    And O.T. but worth posting (I apologize if it was previously posted, though I don’t remember seeing it)…..from Neven’s blog “Lowest Maximum on Record (again)…March 19th
    http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2017/03/lowest-maximum-on-record-again.html

    Reply
    • Great work by Neven here. Good to see him back from Sabbatical. And, yeah, it appears that we are entering a very high risk time period for sea ice loss come summer.

      Reply
  3. Even here in Ireland which traditionally has more than its fair share of rain had a surprisingly dry winter and we got the usual March winds from mid-february.. there was also an early warm spell which encouraged bees to appear far too early before the end of the frosts which means there will be less around in the real spring for pollination. Very interesting thank you and have put in my Blogger Daily this evening.

    Reply
    • Thanks and welcome Smorgasbord.

      For the first degree of warming (1 C global), the impacts to mid and lower latitude weather extremes, though measurable, were often not enough for people to recognize. Not so at the poles (where the changes have already been extraordinary and dramatic). But in the 1-2 C range, the impacts to lower and mid latitude weather and climate and environmental conditions will tend to grow more pronounced (and sadly harmful). Visible changes are starting to become the norm, while dangerous changes are unfortunately more frequent. We are in for a bit of a rough ride. And I really hope we start working together more at every level to get this crisis under control.

      Reply
      • I agree Robert.. it would help if those who lead us would get on the same page. We moved back from Madrid after 17 years to Ireland and my first impression on my return that the weather here had somewhat flattened out across the year whereas less than twenty years ago there were clearly delineated seasons. Very interesting thank you.

        Reply
  4. June

     /  March 20, 2017

    Methane and CO2 release from the melting permafrost in the Arctic looks ready to accelerate. The photos are disturbing.

    7000 underground gas bubbles poised to ‘explode’ in the Arctic

    http://siberiantimes.com/science/casestudy/news/n0905-7000-underground-gas-bubbles-poised-to-explode-in-arctic/

    Reply
    • Thanks for this June. Lots of permafrost news recently. The picture is starting to become a little clearer. I sincerely hope that all sides of this scientific discussion can keep it cordial.

      Reply
  5. paulandruss

     /  March 20, 2017

    As a weather freak I cannot tell you what a great post this was for me. In the UK the world weather has been focusing on the snow storms hitting the US East Coast and rain in California relieving the drought. So I had no idea about the conditions in Southern central part. There is no doubt the world weather is changing. Whatever the cause- man made or natural – we certainly need to wake up to the fact that while the world will go on there is a distinct possibility we won’t. Thanks for this. Appreciated. Paul

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words, Paul. I honestly think they should be covering Peru (100,000 homes lost at this point) and the growing humanitarian tragedy in Africa at this point. Even the East Coast snows have a climate angle — the very, very warm Atlantic Ocean off the eastern seaboard increases the moisture loading to any cold front that does come through increasing the rate of snowfall precipitation and tilting the scales toward much heavier accumulation when snow does fall. In California, the swing has been from record drought to record flood — also a climate signal due to added moisture loading (preferring heavy precipitation when rain does fall) and increased rates of evaporation (preferring drought as opposed to more moderate dry periods).

      Reply
      • Jeremy In Wales

         /  March 20, 2017

        Unfortunately stories concerning the real world do not punture the rolling boring news regarding Brexit and Trump. The rest of the world hardly exists, outside of a few media sites.

        Reply
        • Syd Bridges

           /  March 20, 2017

          I couldn’t agree more, Jeremy. Normally, one of the things I look forward to when I return to the UK is the much better news coverage. We are seeing a little on Syria and the emerging famines in Africa, but the news is so dominated by news of the fifth rate politicians of the Anglophone world that I now don’t notice any improvement.

        • Looks like idiocy is now the chief U.S. export.

  6. Shawn Redmond

     /  March 20, 2017

    There will be no reprieve, one extreme or the other coming soon to a place near you!
    http://floodlist.com/africa/burundi-floods-cibitoke-bujumbura-march-2017Torrential rain that began during the evening of 16 March has caused flooding and landslides in northern and western areas of Burundi, including parts of the capital Bujumbura.

    Local media, quoting Vice President Gaston Sindimwo, said that the heavy rain caused a landslide in the northwestern town of Mabayi, Cibitoke Province. The landslide smothered several houses and rescuers found five victims, with further searches ongoing.

    The heavy rain also caused flooding in several districts of the capital Bujumbura, including Buterere and Kinama. At least one death was reported as a result of the flooding, which also destroyed 162 homes according to the vice president.

    Flooding was also reported in other areas of the country, including Kiganda, Muramvya Province in central-western Burundi and Mutimbuzi in Bujumbura-Rural. Full damage assessments are yet to be carried out in these areas

    Also from FloodList:
    http://floodlist.com/australia/floods-new-south-wales-march-2017
    Some parts of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, have recorded over 500 mm of rain in the last 7 days as a low-pressure system drenched the region.

    Over the weekend of 17 to 19 March, parts of the state’s northeast and Mid North Coast were hardest hit. On 18 March, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said that 21 stations had recorded more than 100 mm of rain that day and Evans Head had recorded around 100 mm in just two hours.

    Reply
  7. Today in a restaurant I saw footage of the flooding in Peru. How so many people have managed to dodge death is a mystery – or miracle – to me. The death toll is rising, but when a wall of water comes barreling through a populated area, how does anyone get out alive? They also showed many pet rescues, which touched my heart that people would risk their own safety to help the stranded animals.

    Here’s one ‘combo’ video that compiled other videos and was pubished today..

    Most people I talk to in Ecuador agree that the clima has changed.. hot where it was once perfect/mild, and perfect/mild where it was once ‘jacket weather,’ and many talk about more rain now than usual. Cuenca has been getting a lot of flooding, as has Guayaquil, but in the cloud forest of Mindo it’s about normal for this time of year. It does seem exceptionally hot when the sun is out, however…..

    Via these videos I learned a new word – ” huaico ” — from Wilkipedia: ” huaico (from the Quechua wayqu, meaning “depth, valley”) is a Peruvian term that refers to a flash flood caused by torrential rains occurring high in the mountains, especially during the weather known as El Niño. ”

    Thanks for the great work you are doing, trying to keep interested people informed as well as awakening others….
    Lisa

    Reply
  8. climatehawk1

     /  March 21, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  1. Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 20th March 2017 | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life
  2. Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 20th March 2017 – Paul Andruss, Staci Troilo, Robert Marston Fanney, Annette Clark and Ed. A. Murray | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life
  3. March Climate Madness — Wildfires, Scorching Summer Heat Strike Central and Southwestern U.S. By Winter’s End | robertscribbler | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

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