Hot and dry start to June for Colorado

Following a relatively active May for Northeast Colorado, the pattern has become very warm and dry across the entire state over the first 12 days of June.  The drought and fire situation has turned dire for many areas, which suffered from a below average winter snowpack.  The San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado experienced one of their worst winters for snowfall on record, and not surprisingly this has been a focal point for wildfire activity so far.  The 416 Fire near Durango started on June 1st, and so far has burned over 22,000 acres and is only 10% contained.  The situation in the San Juans has resulted in a closure of the entire San Juan National Forest to humans due to the wildfire threat.

The maps below show the departure from average precipitation and departure from average temperature over Colorado through the first half of the month.  Certainly not a situation that helps the fire and drought concerns.  Interestingly enough, portions of Southern Colorado and the San Luis Valley are showing an above average precipitation anomaly so far for June, but keep in mind that this area receives very little precipitation on average in June, so it doesn’t take much to be “above average” there at this time of year.


June 1-10, 2018 Departure from Average Precipitation (Source: Western Regional Climate Center)


June 1-10, 2018 Departure from Average Temperatures (Source: Western Regional Climate Center)


In addition to the 416 Fire near Durango, additional fires have recently started in or near Colorado.  On Sunday, the Badger Creek Fire started in the Snowy Range of Southern Wyoming, near the Colorado border.  Closer to home, the Buffalo Mountain Fire started just outside of Silverthorne in Summit County this morning, and is burning beetle kill forest and threatening numerous structures.  

Colorado and the Southwest U.S. is in dire need of moisture right now.  The image below shows the current drought situation in Colorado.  Southern Colorado in particular is experiencing an exceptional drought, but drought conditions are projected to expand to include much of Northern Colorado over the next month as well.


There is both good and bad news with regards to the weather outlook for moisture over the next couple of weeks.  In the short-term, the pattern looks to remain mostly dry across much of the state with hot temperatures and only some isolated thunderstorm chances.  Fortunately, there are no widespread strong winds expected during this time.

As we head into the weekend, we will finally start to see some better moisture potentially arrive as a trough of low pressure deepens across the Western U.S. and moisture from Hurricane Bud in the Pacific Ocean becomes entrained into the flow and likely reaches Colorado.  This should start to bring better chances for rainfall across Western Colorado on Saturday, before spreading into the Front Range and Eastern Colorado on Sunday.  Good chances for rain and thunderstorms could persist well into next week, although it’s too early to say which parts of Colorado will be favored more than others.  This pattern will be watched by many with great interest given the current dry spell.

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