June in the West
The Southwest experienced record heat and numerous destructive blazes this month. Utah, Montana, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming were among the most affected by large fires ignited and record temperatures. In contrast, the Pacific Northwest experienced anomalously cool and wet conditions. Fire activity has been below recent averages in acreage (85-90 percent) and number (about two-thirds), but the fires that have occurred were in populated areas with valuable property.
Locations throughout Colorado saw record-breaking heat due to a large area of high pressure persisting over the state throughout the second half of the month. Denver reached 105 F (40.5 C) on June 25 and 26, tying the all-time (since 1872) annual maximum previously reached in July 2005 and August 1878. Denver saw six days over the century mark for the month of June, breaking the previous record of three days set in 1990. Colorado Springs also notched its all-time annual record high at 101 F (38.3 C) on June 26; records at that location date back to 1895. Monthly average temperatures at Denver (75 F, 23.8 C), Colorado Springs, (73.2 F, 22.8 C), and Pueblo (77 F, 25 C) set new June records at their respective locations. Cheyenne, Wyoming experienced its second warmest average June temperature on record at 67.9 F (19.9 C), only 0.1 F (0.05 C) behind the record of 68 F (20 C) set in 2006; records at Cheyenne began in 1872. Further south, Phoenix, Arizona recorded a monthly average of 93.8 F (34.3 C), their second warmest June in a record dating back to 1895.
The Northwest and coastal California remained cool this month, with average temperatures 2-4 F (1-2 C) below normal. An active storm pattern helped to keep the Pacific Northwest temperate, while the marine stratus known as the “June Gloom” set in along the California coast for over half the month at some locations. The airport at Santa Barbara, California, reported 19 days with fog this month.
Following a somewhat dry May, June 2012 saw many daily precipitation records throughout Oregon, Eastern Washington, and the Idaho panhandle. Medford, Oregon recorded its 7th wettest June since records began in 1911 with 2.36 in (59.9 mm). June totals at Medford helped to bring the water year total to near normal after a 6 in (152.4 mm) deficit persisted through much of the winter. Further east, Walla Walla, Washington received 3.5 in (89 mm) for the month, setting the record for June precipitation. The previous record was 3.09 in (78.5 mm) in 1984; records at Walla Walla date back to 1916. Abundant June precipitation helped to further alleviate the drought conditions present in eastern portions of Oregon and Washington the first few months of the year.
Dry and windy conditions dominated the Southwest, allowing for severe fire weather to persist throughout the month. June is normally the driest month in the desert Southwest, and many locations in Southern California, Nevada, Utah, and western Arizona received no measurable precipitation for the month. Salt Lake City received only a trace of precipitation, the third driest June in a record dating back to 1928. Localized thunderstorms brought a few days of light moisture to New Mexico, Southern Arizona, and Colorado throughout the month. Further west, drought conditions continue to worsen in Hawaii, with leeward locations most affected. Lihue, Kauai received only 0.45 in (11.43 mm) this June, the third driest June on the stations record that began in 1950. Kona, Hawaii received 0.21 in (5.3 mm), 21% of normal for June.
Significant Events for June 2012
June (all month): Fires throughout West: Critical fire conditions (low relative humidity, high wind, drought conditions) were in place for most of June in the Southwest and Inland Northwest allowing wildfires to develop and spread rapidly. New Mexico: The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, New Mexico’s largest fire on record, continued to burn through the month of June. The fire was ignited by lightning on May 16 and has since burned 297,845 acres (120,533 hectares) and is now 87% contained. Colorado: Colorado experienced its most destructive fire in history this month, the Waldo Canyon fire. The fire has destroyed 346 homes, burned 17,920 acres (7,251 hectares) and is 70% contained. The fire began June 23, and cause is still under investigation. The High Park Fire, 15 miles east of Fort Collins, consumed 259 homes and 87,284 acres (35,322 hectares). This incident is now 100% contained. Montana: On June 26, lightning ignited the Dahl Fire 12 miles east of Roundup, Montana. The fire has since burned 22,045 acres (8,921 hectares) and is near contained. Utah: The human-caused Clay Springs fire, 4 miles south of Oak City, ignited on June 27 and has since burned 102,699 acres (41,560 hectares). 125 structures are threatened, and the incident is only 48% contained. The Wood Hollow Fire began on June 24 one mile south of Fountain Green, Utah. The fire has engulfed 43,387 acres (17,558 hectares), 52 homes, 108 outbuildings, and killed one person.