Updated 7:22 a.m. MDT April 22, 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.
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.
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
…EXTREMELY CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER AREA FOR PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AND EASTERN NEW MEXICO INTO EASTERN COLORADO… …CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER AREA FOR PORTIONS OF THE SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL HIGH PLAINS…
…Synopsis… ***DANGEROUS FIRE-WEATHER CONDITIONS EXPECTED TODAY ACROSS PORTIONS OF EAST-CENTRAL NEW MEXICO INTO EASTERN COLORADO***
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.
(end of forecast)
Below is the forecast for the area near the Calf Canyon fire 23 miles east of Santa Fe.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rick.