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    Weather Changes Coming to Much of the West

    By By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist
    June 09, 2010, 6:58:52 AM EDT

    A shift in the steering currents will end the rain train in the Northwest for the long term and trim the heat in the Southwest this weekend.

    The long-awaited northerly shift in the jet stream will guide Pacific storms over Alaska into the Canadian Rockies and into the Great Plains of the United States beginning this weekend.


    For people over the Plains and northern Rockies, it will mean more of the same. However, the pattern will translate to substantially more sunshine, higher temperatures and much less rain for Washington, Oregon and northern California, compared to recent weeks starting this weekend.

    Temperatures in Seattle and Portland have averaged about 2 degrees below normal so far this month. However, rainfall has been 3 to 6 times that of normal for the first week of June.

    In addition, the shape of the jet stream will allow some cooler air to filter into the Four Corners and Deserts late this week and into the weekend.


    It has been a hot month for Phoenix thus far. Temperatures have averaged over 4 degrees above normal for the first nine days of June 2010. High temperatures are expected to dip into the 90s over the weekend.

    The latest storm affecting the Northwest today will swing into the central and northern Rockies with areas of rain, locally gusty thunderstorms with hail and fog over the ridges to close out the week, as well as the first part of the weekend.


    A fire burns near Tanacross, Alaska, on May 27, 2010. AP Photo/Alaska Joint Information Center/Kathy Turk.

    Wildfires Increasing

    As of late Tuesday, there were nine major wildfires burning in Alaska. While the upcoming weather pattern will allow some opportunities for rainfall in the coming weeks, it may also trigger spotty, mainly dry thunderstorms that could ignite new fires.

    According to the Alaska Division of Forestry, there have been over 300 fires in the state so far this year that have burned over half a million acres. Last year, close to a whopping 3 million acres burned. Most of the fires were caused by human carelessness and lightning strikes.

    A drier- and warmer-than-average spring in Alaska has led to fires in May and early June behaving more like that of July.

    Two fires, one each in Arizona and New Mexico, were far from being contained. The Horseshoe fire in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona had consumed nearly 2,400 acres. While cooler weather coming this weekend will aid fire fighting efforts slightly, a long season lies ahead as no widespread drenching rain is in sight.

    For much of the western United States and Canada, the worst of the wildfire season is yet to come. The growth of brush spurred on by winter snow and spring rain will soon dry out, creating the necessary fuel for the flames. The more moisture in the spring, the more growth there is that will eventually die off.

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