Summer heat furthers wildfire threat

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Another summer with hotter than average temperatures across most of the U.S. may contribute to wildfires in the West.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has forecasted above average temperatures for about 75 percent of the country. According to the Associated Press, everything below a line stretching from middle New Jersey to southern Idaho will experience the extra heat.

 Jon Gottschalck, head of forecast operations at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md., blames the extra heat on the effects of last year’s drought. Because soil in many places is already dry, less of the sun’s energy is used evaporating water in the soil leaving more energy to heat the air near the ground.

Some parts of the Southwest, still recovering from the severe drought in 2011, will see this summer’s average temperature exceed averages by  one or two degrees. The additional heat, mixed with dry ground, creates a recipe for more severe wildfires.

Wildfires have already popped up in northern Arizona and northern Colorado on Thursday forcing evacuations.  Greg Carbin, the meteorologist who coordinates warnings at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., is wary about wildfires in May.

"To see fires to the extent that they are this early isn't a good sign," he said. And the summer forecast is for "a pretty significant wildfire season developing across the western United States."

The Associated Press reports last May until April was the hottest 12-month period on record for the nation with records going back to 1895.



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