PHOENIX — Scientists say the outlook for the western U.S. fire season is grim because it's starting far drier than 2020's record-breaking fire year.
Measurements show soil and plants are much drier, making trees and brush more likely to ignite and fire to spread.
A megadrought fueled by climate change is part of the problem.
According to the National Weather Service, our current drought is much worse than it was in the previous years when we had our top 5 biggest wildfire seasons.
From the Rockies westward, April was the second driest on record.
Now more than 77% of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico are in either extreme or exceptional drought.
Taking a closer look at Arizona, 99% of the state is in drought and 58% is in the worst kind of drought possible.
Juniper trees are dying, and fire officials say their canopies of dead needles are like having gasoline out in the national forests.
The chance of a good, soaking rain in the next month here in Arizona is slim to none. June is historically our driest month of the year.
The monsoon may help once it kicks into gear, but we also run the risk of more lightning-sparked wildfires when storms do roll in.
There's no clear indication right now as to how wet this monsoon could be.
The Climate Prediction Center gives most of Arizona equal chances of below-normal, near-normal or above-normal rainfall for June, July, and August.
But, what is considered normal has changed.
New 30-year average precipitation numbers were released this year and monsoon rainfall is down across the state. Phoenix went from an average of 2.71 inches of rain per monsoon season to 2.43 inches.