Hot, Dry Conditions Result in Enhanced Fire Weather Season |

Hot, Dry Conditions Result in Enhanced Fire Weather Season

Sabrina Ullman
Updated: July 25, 2021 03:13 PM
Created: July 12, 2021 03:48 PM

This summer has been scorching hot for the Northland. Duluth had the hottest June on record, averaging more than seventy eight degrees, much warmer than the 30-year normal of sixty point five degrees.

Most of the area is in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, leading to enhanced fire weather danger. The Duluth National Weather Service has issued eight Red Flag Warnings this year, three of which were in the month of June.

"Looking back in the past fifteen years, we've never actually issued Red Flag Warnings in the month of June for northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin,” said NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Joe Moore. “We've never seen such dry conditions and such windy conditions persist this far into summer. “

A Red Flag Warning is typically issued during a combination of dry and windy conditions. Specifically, fire weather danger is enhanced when there is relative humidity below 25%, 15-20 mph wind with gusts over 25 mph, and really dry vegetation.

RELATED STORY: Burning restrictions expanded in northern Minnesota

Minnesota has already seen more fires in the first six months of the year than the area usually has in an entire year. So far in 2021, the Minnesota Incident Command System has reported 1,485 wildfires, burning a total of 34,804 acres. The average over the past ten years is 1,360 wildfires per year. 

Current Drought Conditions, National Weather Service | WDIO Storm Track Weather Department Current Drought Conditions, National Weather Service | WDIO Storm Track Weather Department

State climatologists say these hot and dry conditions are likely to continue, and the DNR is anticipating a much longer, more difficult fire weather season. In addition to there being more wildfires this year, the fires have also required more time, effort, and resources to put out. 

“The typical fire that occurs when it’s dry burns deeper into the top layers and can take two to three or maybe four times as much effort to completely extinguish,” stated Minnesota DNR Predictive Services Coordinator Travis Verdegan.

Summers have been hotter, fires have been more intense, and it could be a while before the Northland sees relief, especially along the Canadian border. 

“As dry as we are, it’s going to be very difficult to reverse the trends that we have in place right now,” Verdegan said. “Right now, we’ve gotten some decent rain in the southern two-thirds of the state over the last couple of weeks, but the north has actually continued to dry and with that deficit we have in place, it will take quite a bit to completely reverse where we are now.”

A sustained rain over the course of at least a couple of days is needed.

“Right now for Duluth and most of northeast Minnesota and even northwest Wisconsin, we would need about 3-6 inches of rainfall, and ideally not all at once from a thunderstorm,” Moore explained. “Ideally over the course of a couple of days and a couple of storms, in order to kind of get our soil moisture back to normal."

In the meantime, extra caution is advised for anyone considering any sort of outdoor burning. Updated burn restrictions can be found online for both Minnesota and Wisconsin


Sabrina Ullman

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