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Rare nighttime fire weather warning was issued in Colorado

The unusual fire weather of 2022 moved onto another level Sunday night with a rare nighttime red flag warning.

COLORADO, USA — 2022 has been unusually dry and windy so far across the entire state of Colorado.

The 98th red flag warning of the year was issued Monday. That's the most ever in Colorado to this point in a year since the beginning of that dataset in 2006.

And it was the sixth time the fire weather risk category from the Storm Prediction Center reached "extreme." The most in an entire year was seven back in 2011.

But this year’s unusual fire weather hit a new level on Sunday night. Fire weather conditions were so poor that the National Weather Service in Pueblo had to extend a red flag warning through the overnight hours in southern Colorado.

According to data they posted, less than 1% of red flag warnings happen between midnight and 6 a.m., while more than 80% happen in the afternoon.

Normally, the humidity levels go up enough at night to drop the weather conditions below red flag criteria. The winds generally die down at night, too.

In Trinidad on Sunday night, the humidity didn’t get above 15% until after 4 o’clock in the morning.

This is a disturbing trend that scientists have been seeing in their research. In March, CU Boulder published a new study that showed nighttime red flag conditions are 45% more likely now than they were in 1979.

The study showed that the loss of moisture through evaporation and lack of overnight humidity recovery was more impactful to drought and wildfire danger than the lack of precipitation. That is especially true in Colorado where even average precipitation is still relatively low.

Red flag warnings in southern Colorado are scheduled to expire 9 o’clock Monday night, but if the humidity stays low again, they might have to extend them with some gusty winds still likely. 

Another round of red flag warnings is coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday with the worst day of the week in the Denver area likely on Thursday.

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