Jim Andrews

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Scotland Wildfires Blacken Hundreds of Acres

April 2, 2013; 8:05 AM ET


The pattern that set up Europe's cold March 2013 also dried most of Scotland, setting up numerous wildfires on April 1.

Heathland fires have burned hundreds of acres in Scotland, following an unusually dry month of March.

Crews were actively fighting wildfires near Fort William, in the northwest of Scotland, the U.K. Daily Mail website said on Monday.

Along with heath and grass, the flames have taken some trees, fenceposts and electrical poles.

A plantation forest was under threat near Banavie, the Daily Mail said.

Other blazes burned on Eilean Shona, on the Isle of Lewis, and near Poolewe, Wester Ross.

Preliminary weather data from the U.K. Met Office website showed that March rainfall was only 36 percent of the normal amount in Scotland as a whole. However, some districts in the west and north of Scotland had as little as 19 percent of normal.

While wildfires are "common," the presence of so many fires on a single day is not, the Daily Mail said.

During the Easter weekend, almost 100 fires "were tackled across the Highlands and Islands," the U.K. Telegraph website said on Tuesday. Some were thought to have the result of "muirburning," the act of setting range fires to improve pasture for grazing.

In what may be an ironic twist, the dryness and fires may well be attributed to stubbornly strong arctic high pressure anchored north and northeast of the U.K. since the first half of March. After all, it was this high that set up the near-record cold across the U.K. as well as the unusually severe snowstorm of the 23rd and 24th of the month.

Being near the high, however, the far north of Scotland gleaned relatively little rain or snow from the dry easterly winds, which displaced the more typical, rain-giving south-westerlies.

Preliminary Met Office calculations as of late March showed that the month of March 2013 was in the running to be the coldest since 1962 for the U.K. as a whole.

Thumbnail image credit -- Google Maps

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