First Chance of Rain in Wildfire Areas

June 21, 2012; 5:10 PM ET
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There is a chance of rain for some wildfire and drought areas of the Southwest this coming weekend.

If the event materializes, it could be the first rain for some locations in many weeks.

While far from a sure thing, there is the potential of spotty showers and thunderstorms for parts of Arizona, Utah and western Colorado and New Mexico starting this weekend, continuing into next week.

There has been a parade of storms across the northern tier of the nation this spring. However, there has been no moisture available farther south for these storms to bring any rainfall to the deserts and much of the Four Corners.

The tropics, particularly the Eastern Pacific, have become active and moisture is now flowing over Central America.

There is some indication that moisture will move over northern Mexico later this week, where it could then be drawn northward into the United States by the passing storm systems up north.

Even if this more humid flow develops from the south, the rainfall would tend to be spotty. Many places in the Southwest U.S. could still miss out on rain.

The moisture would not be enough to turn the overall drought around all at once.

It is unclear that this initial surge of humidity and the shower activity it brings would continue long enough to mark the start of an event known to locals as the monsoon. This could be just a tease with a return to bone-dry conditions for several more weeks.

According to Western Weather Expert Ken Clark, "On average, the monsoon, and the higher humidity and thunderstorms it brings, kicks in during early July. However, the monsoon has begun during June in some years."'s long-range team of meteorologists, headed by Paul Pastelok, is projecting a beefier monsoon season this summer, when compared to recent years.

More of a downside to this particular event and the monsoon in general is the risk that mostly dry thunderstorms (lightning strikes without rain) occur, which potentially could ignite new wildfires.

This Google map which appears courtesy of Inciweb shows the approximate location of the dozens of wildfires burning in the Southwest U.S. as of Monday, June 18, 2012.

The bulk of the potential moist flow would take aim east of California with this initial round. Spotty thunderstorms would continue east of the Continental Divide as fronts drop southward over the Plains.

At any rate, at least there are some signs that the atmosphere may soon breathe some life into the Southwest in terms of moisture and opportunities for rainfall.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Drought Monitor appears courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Hope is all some of these folks have.

"The clockwise flow around high pressure, which helps to drive the monsoon, should be getting into position over the next several weeks," Pastelok said.

The last time there was more than 0.10 of an inch of rain in Phoenix, Ariz., was on March 18. In Durango, Colo., there were a couple of such events during April.


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