A strong monsoon allowed Arizona to escape a wave of wildfires, just in time for the rest of the West to catch fire.
The forests around Payson have reopened and last week even some fire restrictions were lifted.
All of the state’s national forests are now open and Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Kaibab lifted all fire restrictions last week. The Tonto remains under Stage 1 fire restrictions, which prohibits campfires among other activities. See full details on the fire restrictions in the story below.
But before you start that campfire, think about the latest forecast from the National Weather Service. There is a 66% chance of having a cold and dry winter.
Still, the rest of the West enjoys seeing the monsoon rains that have been sweeping down northern Arizona almost daily for the past two weeks. The trend is expected to continue this week, with a 20-60% chance of rain per day for the week ahead in Payson, Show Low and Flagstaff.
Nonetheless, more than 500,000 acres burned across Arizona before scattered daily storms tamed a multitude of fires. Over the past week, the handful of new fires have posed little new danger and existing major fires have not increased significantly.
“The fire danger remains high,” noted Brady Smith, public affairs manager for Coconino Forest. âVisitors are always urged to remain vigilant and avoid activities that could accidentally cause forest fires – refrain from making campfires on dry and windy days and remember that it is still illegal to leave a campfire unattended. Fireworks are never allowed on national forest lands.
Some closures remain in effect near fires that are still active, primarily to protect the public and give firefighters space to work.
The Forest Service continued to issue advisories on active fires in the area, including the 262-acre Paradise Park Fire five miles east of Hannagan Meadows, the 130-acre Snake Fire seven miles from Clints Well, the 3,000 acre Middle Fire on the edge of the Mazatzal Wilderness, the 16,000 acre Tiger Fire 11 miles east of Crown King, the 110 acre O’Connell Fire five miles from Tusayan, and the Elements Fire in 1,300 acres north of Kingman.
None of the fires still active in Arizona are currently threatening structures or forcing evacuations.
On the other hand, fires have broken out in California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Montana in recent weeks, consuming buildings and forcing evacuations. The monsoon taming Arizona fires came just in time to move overexploited resources from Arizona to other states.
Other states have called on the National Guard to deal with a succession of devastating fires in the Pacific Northwest, some spanning over 200,000 acres. The nation remains at Readiness Level 5, which means all resources are fully committed. This forces the range commanders to ration their forces and shape their strategies accordingly. The United States has never gone to level 5 this early.
The area of ââforest fires in the United States has grown steadily over the past 30 years, bringing federal firefighting costs to over $ 3 billion. The five worst years of wildfires since 1960 have all happened since 2006, according to the Congressional Research Service – with 9 million or 10 million acres burned each year. In 2020, 59,000 forest fires in the United States burned 1,012 million acres and consumed 17,000 structures.
The report from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center says that after months of generally normal temperatures, cold has seeped into the measurements – moving to the same La NiÃ±a pattern that produced the dry winter in 2020 This is not surprising, since the conditions of La NiÃ±a have normally set in in multi-year clusters.
The change in measurements resulted in a 51% chance of La NiÃ±a conditions by October. However, predictions based on climate models predict a 66% chance of a La NiÃ±a winter from November to January, according to the recently released forecast.
The La NiÃ±a cooling trend is associated with dry winters in the southwest. In contrast, an El NiÃ±o warming often produces a wet winter.
The Pacific trade winds from South America west to Asia usually cause La NiÃ±a temperature changes in the eastern Pacific. Trade winds can accumulate warm water on the surface, which can attract cooler water from the depths. Additionally, trade winds can affect the course of the high-altitude jet stream – which directs major storm systems. If the jet stream moves north, storms that would normally bring snow to Arizona could hit Oregon or Montana instead.
Thus, in general, winters dominated by La NiÃ±a result in wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes, colder air in much of the west, and dry conditions in the southwest and the South-East. However, forecasters won’t know for sure until they see how the jet stream responds in the fall.
When it comes to drought, Arizona can’t accept much more bad news without big consequences. Already, Lake Mead is only 36% full and Lake Powell is 34% – the lowest levels since the reservoirs were filled. The United States Bureau of Reclamation has warned that if there is another winter like 2020, Arizona and Nevada could lose much of their Colorado River allotment.
The Salt and Verde watersheds this year recorded their second lowest total runoff in more than 100 years of record keeping, according to the Salt River Project.