The hot and dry conditions that have fueled an increasing number of large wildfires in the western United States this summer show no signs of letting up through this weekend.
After a brief respite from the extreme heat early this week, temperatures are once again set to throttle back up to near record levels into the weekend.
“As a ridge of high pressure strengthens and expands through the rest of the week and into the weekend, temperatures will rise to above-normal levels across much of the West,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson.
A high pressure system is a weather feature that brings extended periods of dry conditions and sunshine and can often times lead to extreme heat.
Although temperatures through the weekend are forecast to soar 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit above midsummer normals, they may fall just a few degrees shy of setting new high temperature records in most locations, Adamson added.
The mercury should soar to around 100 F in Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City, Utah, through Saturday. High temperatures may continue to crack the 100-degree mark in Salt Lake City into the beginning of the upcoming week.
Increasing amounts of cloud cover and moisture in the southwestern U.S. should put a cap on how high temperatures can climb through the weekend.
In Las Vegas and Phoenix, high temperatures should remain within a few degrees of normal, but chances of any rain remain low until at least the start of the upcoming week. The highest temperatures, in comparison to normal, should center over the central and northern Rockies.
The latest surge of heat will counteract efforts to contain many of the ongoing wildfires in the West while also enhancing the risk for the ignition of new blazes.
However, winds will be light throughout most of the West through the weekend.
On the other hand, any isolated thunderstorms can greatly alter wind direction and speed in localized areas, potentially leading to rapid spreading of wildfires.
“Any thunderstorms should be mainly confined to the higher elevations, and most of the thunderstorms should drop small amounts of rain but still produce significant amounts of lightning,” Adamson said.
Any time lightning strikes parched and arid vegetation in the absence of meaningful rainfall, the possibility that a new wildfire will erupt is greatly enhanced.
At the present time, large wildfires are currently burning in portions of every state from the Rocky Mountains to the West Coast, with 16 blazes being reported in Arizona and California, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The Whittier Fire over the Santa Ynez Mountains northwest of Santa Barbara, California, began on July 8 and is only 25 percent contained. At least 20 structures have been charred by the blaze, with mandatory evacuations in place along Highway 154.
In Northern California, the Wall Fire has destroyed nearly 100 structures and burned over 6,000 acres of land. However, firefighters are getting an upper hand on the blaze, which is currently at 70 percent containment.
The Brooklyn Fire near Black Canyon City, Arizona, ignited on July 7 and has already consumed nearly 33,000 acres of land but is at 85 percent containment.
In Utah, over 70,000 acres of land have been burned by the Brian Head Fire since it began on June 17. Over 500 personnel are currently battling the blaze, which is 85 percent contained.
With no signs of widespread, beneficial rainfall and a drop in temperatures back to seasonable levels in the foreseeable future, an extended and active wildfire season may continue through summer’s end in much of the West.