Gulf moisture could spawn area storms to help combat Lake Christine Fire | AspenTimes.com

Gulf moisture could spawn area storms to help combat Lake Christine Fire

Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and less wind Thursday offered some good news to midvalley residents and firefighters battling the Lake Christine Fire.

The added humidity from a storm making its way across Texas and Mexico on Thursday increases the chances for thunderstorm formation in the Roaring Fork Valley for the next few days and into next week, said Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

"It's really just higher humidity that's good news," Phillips said. "If there's an increase in the afternoon humidity … it will help them fight the fire."

He said Thursday's weather was a significant change from Wednesday, when humidity in the single digits combined with wind to cause the Basalt-area fire to nearly double in size overnight.

In fact, the National Weather Service issued a "special weather statement" Thursday for the Aspen area, which advised that "increasing moisture will bring showers and thunderstorms to the San Juans and Central Mountains through the weekend." The southern moisture will increase the chances for afternoon and early evening showers and thunderstorms, according to the statement.

"Most of the convection will develop over mountainous terrain mainly south of Interstate 70," according to the statement. "The showers and thunderstorms are expected to move slowly once they develop, which increases the threat of heavy rain. This threat of heavy rain will continue through the weekend."

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Heavy rain could cause flooding, especially in burn scar areas, the statement noted.

Radar from about mid-afternoon Thursday showed a solid smattering of rain and small thunderstorms across eastern Arizona, eastern Utah and most of Colorado and New Mexico.

The Gulf moisture isn't part of this area's normal monsoon weather pattern, Phillips said. Those storms generally originate along the Sierra Madre mountain range in Mexico and in the Gulf of California, he said.

In order for those storms to reach Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley, the ridge of high pressure now over Colorado needs to shift east and settle over Texas and Oklahoma, Phillips said, adding it's hard to say when that will happen.

"There are hints of it occurring as early as next week," he said. "Will it stay in place? That's anybody's guess."

The monsoon weather pattern could go through a few fits and starts before finally settling in, he said. The weather service continues to point to a forecast by its Climate Prediction Center, which says eastern Colorado has a more than 50 percent chance for above average precipitation during the next three months.

"The monsoons will be starting," Phillips said. "We just need that high ridge to shift."

On average, Colorado's monsoon season begins around July 15, Phillips said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com