WeatherWeather Science


Even in winter, fire danger an ongoing threat for Southern Colorado

Colorado Red Flag Warnings per month
Posted at 6:43 PM, Feb 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-21 20:45:45-05

Days of strong wind have dried out the Southern Colorado landscape, resulting in the first Red Flag Warning day of the year.

This comes in spite of what's been a snowier than average season in Colorado Springs, but a drier than average season for Pueblo and the southeast Plains.

That's where areas of extreme and exceptional drought remain.

Even for Pueblo...areas of severe drought can still be seen throughout the county.

Colorado Drought Monitor Update
Current Colorado Drought Monitor, issued February

Low seasonal snowfall and the ongoing drought are just two of the reasons for today's Red Flag Warnings, but what else contributes to high fire danger?

High winds are a main weather component, especially when gusts exceed 25 mph.

Also important is the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.

Days when humidity values are less than 15% often will raise red flags.

But weather is only part of the equation! Dry grasses, fuels and vegetation will also play a big part.

When all of these ingredients come together...a sparked fire can spread much more quickly.

What are Red Flag Warnings
Red Flag Warnings are caused by dry air, dry fuels and gusty winds.

With the idea of a year round fire season in Colorado, let's examine more closely the number of Red Flag Warnings issued by month from 2006 to 2022.

The first big spike based on this period of data is from March to June.

The next spike...from September to October.

This seems to match up pretty well with our windier spring and falls months as storms in these transitional months between summer and winter can create powerful and damaging wind events.

The lowest frequency of Red Flag Warnings occurs in the wetter summer months of July and August.

Everything is much greener that time of the year, and fuel moisture content is typically much higher as well.

There's also a second dip that occurs from December to January when a combination of cold, snow and a more persistent snowpack helps to combat high fire danger.

Colorado Red Flag Warnings per month
Frequency of Red Flag Warnings per month in Colorado