Western heat wave sets records, fuels fire near Boulder, Colorado

By | March 27, 2022

They were among dozens of heat records set in the western United States on Saturday. Daily records for March 26 were set in Salt Lake City (79 degrees); El Paso (87 degrees); Reno, Nev. (79 degrees); Clayton, NM (82 degrees); Pocatello, Idaho (70 degrees); and Pueblo, Colo. (84 degrees), among other locations.

In Denver and Boulder, the temperatures just missed records but surged 20 degrees above normal into the upper 70s.

This unusual warmth, combined with strong winds, fueled a grass fire that erupted near Boulder on Saturday. The blaze, known as the NCAR Fire, got its name for developing very close to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), a world-renowned hub for weather and climate studies.

Crews had prevented the fire from burning structures, and no injuries were reported. About 110 firefighters were working to contain the blaze Sunday, focused on keeping it away from Boulder and Eldorado Springs.

The zone under evacuation orders was scaled back some Sunday but still covered 699 housing units and 836 buildings, affecting 1,629 people.

Both conflagrations occurred amid abnormally warm conditions and drought, which scientists say are increasing in a warming world.

While the winds that fanned Saturday’s fire had diminished Sunday, unusually warm weather continued.

Record highs in the 70s and 80s were predicted in eight western states from Arizona to western Texas. High temperatures were forecast to rise 20 to 30 degrees above normal from the Texas Panhandle through eastern Colorado, the western Dakotas and much of Wyoming and Montana.

In the Lower Mississippi Valley and middle Gulf Coast region, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center warned that, by Wednesday, there is “the potential for widespread damaging winds and tornadoes, including the possibility of a regional tornado outbreak including strong (EF2+) tornadoes “

While warm weather baked the West this weekend, much colder-than-normal weather covered the eastern United States. Snow had even fallen in the Appalachian Mountains and downwind of the Great Lakes.

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