No End in Sight to Colorado Fire Weather

June 29, 2012; 4:40 AM ET
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The Waldo Canyon fire destroyed a neighborhood in Colorado Springs, Co. Photo via <a href="">Gold Coast Weather Facebook page</a>. See more before and after photos at <a href="">The Denver Post</a>.

A lack of drenching rainfall could continue through much of the summer over Colorado and neighboring areas, adding to wildfire woes.

While there has been some thunderstorm activity of late in the region, not enough rain will fall over a broad enough area to significantly impact tinder-dry conditions.

In many cases the storms have brought and will continue to bring little or no rainfall in the weeks ahead.

The air over the region is much too dry to allow the rain falling at cloud level in the storm to reach the ground.

What happens is that the evaporating rain cools the air, which then races to the ground in the form of strong gusts. In turn, the gusty winds generated nearby from the storms fan the flames of existing fires, while lightning strikes from the storms threaten to start new fires.

According to Paul Pastelok, head of's Long Range Experts, "It appears the zone of high pressure over the region now will last through much of July and could continue through much of August."

Pastelok pointed out that some moisture will continue and may increase over the Southwest in general in the coming weeks, but it will tend to "go around" rather than through most of Colorado.

Pastelok is referring to the phenomenon known to locals as the monsoon, which brings more humid air up from Mexico, and produces thunderstorm activity.

"It is possible a non-monsoon feature with a more liberal amount of showers and thunderstorms may swing from Texas to New Mexico next week, but only the southern part of Colorado would be grazed," Pastelok said.

Otherwise, the region will have to wait until the high pressure area breaks down or shifts position and shorter days with lower sun intensity assist with matters.

While temperatures will occasionally throttle back in coming weeks, the overall massive heat pump will remain in place over Colorado through the middle of summer.

Even in areas that manage to get a couple of rainfalls of 0.10 of an inch from one of the spotty thunderstorms the next week or so, long sun-filled days and evaporation rates of 0.25 to 0.50 of an inch per day will rapidly trump rainfall.

Nebraska National Guard crewmembers dump water from a Bambi bucket onto flames of the High Park fire, in Larimer County, Colo., on June 18, 2012.
The National Guard/Flickr


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