Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fire and Ice

Last week a strong storm system dropped 12 inches of snow in northwestern Montana and 12 to 14 inches of snow in northwestern Minnesota. A number of daily snowfall records were set in both states.

Snow depth on the morning of October 6, 2012.
Map from the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center

The snow in northwestern Minnesota was particularly beneficial. It fell on an area of the state where two large wildfires have been burning since early September. The snow helped knock down the fire on the surface, but the fires are now burning layers of peat underground.

While some good rain and snow events have chipped away at drought in the eastern half of the country, the western U.S. is still suffering from long-term dry conditions. Numerous wildfires are still active, especially in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The largest fire is the Mustang Complex in Idaho, consisting of six fires and encompassing more than 340,000 acres.

This shows the location of fires on October 9 using NOAA satellite data that detects fires and smoke.
Map based on data from the NOAA Satellite and Information Service.

This could be a record year for wildfires in the United States. The current record is 9.8 million acres burned in 2006.  As of October 4, the National Interagency Fire Center reports that more than 8.8 million acres have burned from more than 49,000 wildfires. Idaho has been the state hit the hardest in terms of acres burned with 1.73 million acres affected.

The spectacular fires early this season in Colorado made the national headlines largely because they affected heavily populated areas. However, the wildfire season continues.

This afternoon, a new fire ignited in Rocky Mountain National Park west of Estes Park, Colorado. AS of 5:30 p.m. MDT the fire was 300 acres and was rapidly spreading in steep terrain,

1 comment:

  1. An even larger burn than the Mustang Complex was earlier in SW Oregon. Someone driving out that way noted a 20+ mi stretch of road that was in the burned area.

    In NCentral OR, there was quite a stretch of days where smoke was about all that was consistently present in OR-GL-2 notes.