Excessive heat warning in effect until tonight
Despite the short-lived squalls that blew through the Grand Valley Saturday afternoon, don’t think that portends for an early monsoon season, forecasters with the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service say.
Those were isolated and fast-moving storms that left little more than a trace of moisture, they said.
The service’s Salt Lake City office extended its excessive heat warning for much of eastern Utah and western Colorado until 8 p.m. today, saying that a high pressure system that was centered over the Four Corners area is slowing moving west.
While that will mean slightly cooler temperatures for the valley here, it is expected to bring record or near record highs in Utah, Arizona and Nevada, where temperatures could reach as high as 115.
But while that heat warning is a serious one, local forecasters are far more concerned with their red flag warning, which now includes nearly all of the Western Slope.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry in the red flag warning that we’re concerned with from these thunderstorms producing dry lightning,” general forecaster Joe Ramey said. “(Friday) was our warmest day of the week at 103. That said, we hit 101 (Saturday), and probably for the next seven days, afternoon highs will be right near 100 degrees.”
Ramey said a system called a subtropical ridge, a belt of high pressure that originates near Bermuda, has slowly moved west.
On Friday, it was virtually directly overhead, but has since started to move toward Lake Powell, he said.
“That puts us in a clockwise motion around that high, which it puts us in a light north flow, and it’s pretty hard for us to get a lot of moisture from the north,” he said. “This time of year, we want to have winds from the south to bring moisture into the region. That is not going to happen here for at least a week.”
As a result, no one in Ramey’s office is uttering the “M” word: monsoon.
Still, Ramey said he and other forecasters in the office are hoping to see the region’s traditional monsoon season on time, sometime early next month, though probably not until a few days after Independence Day on Thursday.
“People that are smarter than me looking at the longer-range signals are saying that we should have a good monsoon this year,” he added. “Looking at the forecast models, I’d say we’re not in it until after the sixth of July at this point, which raises concerns about the Fourth and people using fireworks inappropriately.”
As a result, forecasters are warning people to beware of the high fire danger that comes with such extended dry conditions.