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Rising temps on Western Edge could come with elevated wildfire risks in spring

Through co-op observers and satellite images, meteorologists in Bismarck are able to track the amount of precipitation that the state has received so far this winter. However, Meteorologist Nathan Heinert noted that the latest report detected little to no snow cover in areas south and west of the Missouri River.

A stretch of fenceposts shows little snowfall sprinkled over a field of dried corn husks.
A stretch of fenceposts shows little snowfall sprinkled over a field of dried corn husks north of Interstate 94 Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Dickinson, North Dakota,
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — With limited amounts of snowfall in the southwest corner, meteorologists at the Bismarck National Weather Service are hoping winter precipitation will pick up to avoid another spring of heightened wildfires.

Meteorologist Nathan Heinert of the Bismarck National Weather Service provided The Dickinson Press with an update on precipitation conditions.

“There is very little snow cover right now across the southwest part of the state. So we would like to see some more snowfall falling out there,” Heinert said. “But it's kind of too early to tell what the spring is going to look like. We could still get some heavier snow yet in over the next couple months. Or maybe some decent spring rainfall that could help out a lot. But (if) the current conditions hold and we don't get any precipitation, we could see some elevated fire weather risk for the spring.”

Open dirt is slightly exposed despite recent snowfall near a dried up corn field.
Open dirt is slightly exposed despite recent snowfall near a dried up corn field in Dickinson Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Through co-op observers and satellite images, meteorologists in Bismarck are able to track the amount of precipitation that the state has received so far this winter. However, Heinert noted that the latest report detected little to no snow cover in areas south and west of the Missouri River.

In April and May of 2021, the Dickinson Rural Fire Department and the Stark County Sheriff's Office responded to 28 fires in 49 days , all of which occurred south of Interstate 94 — more than a dozen grass and brush fires along Highway 22 north and south of the airport.

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Currently, the weather forecast for southwest North Dakota is looking to warm up over the week.

“I can tell you that this cold air in the next couple days is not going to last,” he said, adding that “ prolonged cold spells ” are not predicted any time soon.

Upcoming forecast

On Tuesday, temperatures will reach a high of 17 degrees with wind chill values as low as -15. Into Tuesday night, clouds will increase with a low of 9 degrees and a south wind of 8 to 15 mph with gusts as high as 25 mph. Wednesday will be partly sunny with a high of 37 degrees. However, the day will consist of a west wind blowing 17 to 22 mph, with gusts as high as 36 mph. Wednesday night’s temperatures will cool off to about 18 degrees with mostly cloudy skies. The northwest winds will continue at 16 to 18 mph, with gusts reaching 28 mph.

“So just a couple of days of chilly weather and then we're going to see a moderation in temperatures. We do have another clipper system moving through on Wednesday. That's going to bring some breezy conditions during the day Wednesday, and also some chances for some snow Wednesday night. (It’s) not looking (like) too much into accumulation, but it will bring some cooler air down with it,” Heinert said.

Partly sunny skies will peak out Thursday for a high of 27 degrees and a northwest wind of 9 to 16 mph — gusts nearing 23 mph. Thursday night’s temperature will drop to about 13 with winds shifting to southwest at 7 to 11 mph and gusts reaching 18 mph. By Friday, temperatures will rise to about 38 with sunny skies. Winds will persist at 9 to 16 mph, presenting gusts near 26 mph. Friday night will have partly cloudy skies with a low of around 19 degrees and a southwest wind of 8 to 11 mph.

The warming trend looks to carry on into the weekend with lower to mid 40s on Saturday across southwest North Dakota, Heinert said, featuring a west wind at 13 to 18 mph and near 23 mph gusts. Saturday night will cool down to about 13 degrees, revealing a northwest wind of 10 to 15 mph — gales reaching 20 mph. On Sunday, partly sunny skies will be accompanied with temperatures nearing 32 degrees and a northwest wind of 10 to 14 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon, according to the forecast for Dickinson, North Dakota.

Into the beginning of next week, the weather forecast indicates that those temperatures are looking at remaining in the mid 30s, Heinert noted.

“There is a signal that we could see some more chances for precipitation by early next week, but again that's not looking like anything major at this time. Just a shot of some light snow, light precipitation again,” Heinert said.

Related Topics: DICKINSONWEATHER
Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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