Extreme fire weather expected Friday in portions of New Mexico and Colorado

“Friday’s expected weather could rival the most powerful fire events of the past decade,” said a NWS meteorologist

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Updated 7:22 a.m. MDT April 22, 2022

Extreme fire weather April 22, 2022
Critical and Extreme fire weather predicted by the Storm Prediction Center for 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, April 22 & 23, 2022.

The Storm Prediction Center has issued a Fire Weather Outlook for 6 a.m. MDT Friday April 22 until 6 a.m. MDT Saturday April 23 that uses language we rarely see in a fire weather forecast, including “extremely critical” and “dangerous”.

The forecast warns about extremely critical fire weather conditions in portions of central and eastern New Mexico and eastern Colorado, and critical fire weather for portions of the southern and central high plains.

Click to see all articles on Wildfire Today, including the most recent, about the Calf Canyon, Hermits Peak, and Cooks Peak fires.

Sustained winds out of the south-southwest at 30 to 40 mph with widespread gusts of 50-60 mph are expected with 5 to 15 percent relative humidity. The fuels are exceptionally dry and isolated thunderstorms with little or no rain are possible in some areas.

Three existing fires in northern New Mexico east and northeast of Santa Fe could be vulnerable to extreme conditions, the Cooks Peak Fire, Calf Canyon Fire, and the Hermits Peak Fire. Friday’s forecast for the Calf Canyon Fire, which was very active Thursday, calls for southwest winds of 46 mph gusting to 64 mph with relative humidity in the teens and 20s. It will also be very windy on Saturday.

In Northern New Mexico the wind speeds will increase through the morning, peaking in the afternoon.

Satellite photo smoke from fires New Mexico
Satellite photo showing smoke from the Cooks Peak and Hermits Peak Fires in northern New Mexico at 6:30 p.m. MDT April 21, 2022. NOAA.

CNN is taking this forecast seriously in an article written by four of their meteorologists. Here are some excerpts:

Friday’s expected weather could rival the most powerful fire events of the past decade, Zach Hiris, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Boulder, Colorado, told CNN.

Compared to recent extremely critical, wind-driven fire dangers in rural areas, some major population centers are threatened in this event, including Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Colorado Springs and the Denver metro area in Colorado.

“There is high confidence that a widespread extreme and potentially catastrophic fire weather event will occur on Friday,” said the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque.

In addition to fueling the fires, widespread wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph — and even 80 mph in scattered areas — could knock down large tree limbs, utility poles and other structures while threatening to topple high-profile vehicles, the weather service said.

Here is the forecast produced by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center at 12:20 p.m. MDT Thursday April 21:

Day 1 Fire Weather Outlook
NWS Storm Prediction Center Norman OK
0202 AM CDT Fri Apr 22 2022

Valid 221200Z – 231200Z



A highly amplified large-scale trough and accompanying intense deep-layer south-southwesterly flow will emerge over the southern Rockies and adjacent High Plains by peak heating. As a result, strong cyclogenesis will occur over far northeastern Colorado during the afternoon, with a sharpening dryline extending southward along the Kansas/Colorado border and the Texas/New Mexico border. The combination of a strong surface pressure gradient, hot/dry conditions behind the dryline, and strong south-southwesterly flow aloft will result in extremely critical fire-weather conditions from east-central New Mexico into eastern Colorado today.

…East-central New Mexico into eastern Colorado… As temperatures climb into the upper 70s to middle 80s behind the sharpening dryline, deep boundary-layer mixing into very dry air aloft will result in widespread 5-15 percent minimum RH. At the same time, 30-40 mph sustained south-southwesterly surface winds (with widespread gusts of 50-60 mph) will overspread critically dry fuels (ERCs above the 90th+ percentile). The volatile combination of very strong/gusty winds, anomalously warm/dry conditions, and near-record dry fuels will encourage extreme fire-weather conditions.

…Remainder of the central and southern High Plains… The eastern extent of critical fire-weather conditions will be demarcated by the placement of the dryline. Strong 30+ mph sustained southerly surface winds (with higher gusts) concurrent with afternoon RH values below 20% will extend into southern New Mexico, West Texas, the western Texas/Oklahoma Panhandles, western Kansas, and western Nebraska — where fuels remain critically dry.

…Dry Thunderstorm Potential… Another point of concern will be isolated dry thunderstorm development immediately along and ahead of the dryline this afternoon, which is expected to take place along the axis of the driest fuels. Any cloud-to-ground lightning flashes that can occur in proximity to the Colorado/Kansas and New Mexico/Texas border area will do so over very receptive fuels, and likely with little wetting rainfall at the early stages of thunderstorm evolution.

..Jirak.. 04/22/2022

(end of forecast)

Below is the forecast for the area near the Calf Canyon fire 23 miles east of Santa Fe.

Weather forecast Calf Fire
Weather forecast for the Calf Fire area, 7 a.m. MDT April 22, 2022.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rick.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “Extreme fire weather expected Friday in portions of New Mexico and Colorado”

  1. Does anybody have the Maps to overlay a map of the semi-perpetual underground Coal fires in Colorado with the wind conditions ?

  2. too bad it started so early in spring. if you are one of the people in the more sensitive group to wildfire smoke and wind blown dust from the dust storms it is not a very good situation. it has remained windy all through early spring where we live. we have really had to water the tulips that came up from bulbs we planted in fall. the ground is staying fairly dried out rt such high winds. it seems this is becoming a trend for the southwest part of the us and makes it not easy to get outside and do much of anything people look forward to being able to do in the spring and summer months. it seems to just be a cycle that is perpetuating itself unfortunately.

  3. So I guess they’re not “Friendly Underground Fires.”

    You can’t roast marshmallows on them or anything.

    All smoke, fire ignition, and no useful flame.

  4. And the Pike sent ALL of it’s suppression resources to some Governors meeting in Denver, leaving it completely unstaffed and exposed for about 6hrs. Meanwhile us small fire protection districts were left holding the bag for THEIR whole unit. Terrible leadership.

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