Southwest Colorado could see record-high temperatures this weekend as a significant heat wave grips the region.
Erin Walter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said a high-pressure system is set to settle over the Four Corners this weekend, bringing hot and dry conditions.
In Cortez, temperatures are expected to reach nearly 100 degrees Saturday and Sunday. “We’re definitely looking at some record-high temperatures this weekend,” Walter said.
It’s not unusual for a high-pressure system to settle over Southwest Colorado this time of year, Walter said. But what is different is how strong this system is, which is driving the hot conditions.
The NWS has issued a heat warning advisory for the area.
Also of note is the temperature drop from daytime highs to overnight lows, Walter said. On Saturday night, for example, temperatures could dip to 57 degrees – a nearly 40-degree gradient from the daytime high.
“Dryness plays a big role in that,” she said.
The chance for rain also does not look good for the coming days, Walter said.
There’s a slight change storms packing moisture could move into the region Sunday into Monday, but with how dry conditions are, it’s not likely any moisture would reach the ground, she said.
Some areas of the high country, around Silverton, may get some rain, Walter said.
Karola Hanks, fire marshal for Durango Fire Protection District, said conditions this weekend are likely to exacerbate the already high fire danger in Southwest Colorado.
“It’s just going to make it so much more likely that something that wouldn’t normally start a fire will, just because of how dry it is,” she said.
Most of Southwest Colorado is under Stage 1 fire restrictions, which prohibits things like campfires, smoking outside and fireworks.
Hanks said the district has not yet called for increased protections under Stage 2 fire restrictions because, for the most part, the community has followed existing regulations and human-caused fires haven’t been an issue.
“If our folks are being good, then we can hold off implementing more restrictive restrictions,” she said. “It’s really about how we as a community behave.”
Esther Godson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said the agency is not considering Stage 2 restrictions. The San Juan National Forest is under a more restrictive version of Stage 1.
“Right now, the restrictions meet the criteria we have, are appropriate and are working,” she said. “Of course, we continually monitor to determine if a change in restriction levels is needed.”
Long-term prediction models show no relief in sight for Southwest Colorado’s hot and dry spell, said Anthony Artusa, a meteorologist with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
For the next several weeks, models show the region at an increased chance of higher-than-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.
“And it looks like there is a delay in the arrival of the monsoons, which is not good,” Artusa said.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly all of Southwest Colorado is listed in an “extreme drought” category. Since Jan. 1, a weather station at Durango-La Plata County Airport has recorded just 2.83 inches of precipitation – down about 3.54 inches from normal.
The Animas River, which is usually running around 1,340 cubic feet per second this time of year, was recorded flowing through town Friday at just 360 cfs.
Meteorologists are pinning their hopes on an approaching system moving into the region next week that may push out the high-pressure system causing the heat wave.
Then, it’s possible some monsoonal moisture could move in, and potentially, moisture could hit the ground.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now,” Walter said. “But it’s definitely needed.”