DRY THUNDERSTORMS AND WILD FIRES: Not A Good Mix - KMSP-TV

DRY THUNDERSTORMS AND WILD FIRES: Not A Good Mix

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The recent tragedy in Arizona goes to show the unpredictable nature of a wildfire. At a moment's notice a wildfire can change direction, especially if fueled by strong winds. You may think that a thunderstorm or rain event is good for wildfire control.

If it is just rain, then yes, it's a good thing. A thunderstorm in the dry desert is another story. Dry thunderstorms occur quite often in the western part of the country. When a thunderstorm develops in this situation, it is usually fed by some available moisture not close to the surface. These high based storms act in pretty much the same way as other thunderstorms. They produce lightning, which in itself can trigger a wildfire. The storm also produces rain, but in a very dry environment, the rain evaporates before it hits the ground, resulting in no moisture to aid in the fighting of wildfires.

The evaporation of this moisture also causes the cooling of the air which leads to strong downdrafts, resulting in multidirectional gusts of wind at the surface. Its these sudden gusts of wind that can steer and change the course of a wildfire. As you can see, a thunderstorm without rain and a wildfire are not a good combination. Frazier

CLOUDS AND RAIN SHAFT, PRESCOTT, AZ  7/1/13 Steve Rosen

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