Delayed Monsoon Season This Year Increases Wildfire Risk Across Utah
Meteorologists say thunderstorms projected for Southern Utah this weekend could do more harm than good for wildfires across the state.
Most years the beginning of monsoon season starts in July. These storms usually put an end to Utah’s summer wildfires. But this year a late monsoon has left hot, dry fuel across the state. Basil Newmerzhycky is a fire weather meteorologist with the Bureau of Land Management.
“This past month has been very unusual, the typical monsoon pattern has been suppressed, so areas that normally get quite wet, even southern to central Utah, have been drier than normal" he says, "and we’ve been exceptionally dry up here in the northern third of the state.”
Newmerzhycky says this weekend’s dry storm with lightning and high winds could actually cause more fires.
“When you have very little rain coming in, lightning bolts, which can be hot as 50 thousand degrees, have a much better tendency to ignite something, and have that ignition actually turn into a large fire” he says.
Newmerzhycky says that even when the monsoon does hit Utah in a couple of weeks, its storms probably won’t reach Provo or Salt Lake. So Northern Utah could stay drier and warmer longer than usual, into September. And if that happens, wildfire season could stretch into the fall.