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The BBC reported on March 28, 2022 that Guinard Island was on fire.

That strikes me as odd. The west of Scotland should be wet in spring. A wildfire in Scotland in March seems strikingly out of place and time.

A google search brought up only droughts in recent years, of which there were some.

Hence the question: Did Scotland receive drastically less rain than usual in March of 2022?1


1 The spring in Germany was clearly much drier than usual, something I can attest to personally: The last significant rain must be weeks ago in Berlin. Less anecdotally, this site reports that March 2022 was the sunniest and driest March on record so far: Up to March 25, there were only 1.3 mm of precipitation in what should be one of the wettest months.

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    $\begingroup$ there is an ongoing drought in parts of scandinavia and in the north of europe right now the cost of hydropower in the south of norway is 10x+ of what it normally is,in the north of norway and sweden the situation is the oposite with flooding and too much rain.the situation is unusual but it is whitin what is normal for this part of the world. $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2022 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ i just want to add that it is only the timing of the dry weather that is a bit off,if it had happened during jun-jul-aug everybody had been blessed with a nice summer,,,researchgate.net/publication/… $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2022 at 4:13
  • $\begingroup$ @trondhansen "It's only the timing of his death that's a bit off, if it had happened at 80 he'd have had a fulfilled life." ;-) $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2022 at 11:40

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No there isn't a drought in Scotland, but there doesn't have to be for there to be a high fire risk.

As you say, the west coast is often wet which means the conditions are ideal for the (slow) build up of peat, which is an excellent fuel when dry. The terrain is also often covered in heather (Calluna vulgaris) which burns easily.

It doesn't take many days of dry weather for the surface and vegetation to dry out and therefore for good wild fire conditions to build. In the northern Cairngorm National Park, which is surrounded by peat, heather and pine forest, the 'High Fire Risk' signs tend to go out after three days of no rain.

At the time of the fire you refer to, Scotland was under a blocked weather pattern. There was a high pressure system over the North Sea which eventually centred over Scotland. This gave Scotland unseasonably warm weather and very dry conditions for about 10 days but not something that would be classed as a drought.

Synoptic chart showing high pressure over UK on 27 March 2022, around the time of the fire

I think the reason the fire made the news is two-fold:

  • The island was used for Anthrax testing in the past
  • The entire island appeared to be on fire in the photos

Overall, wild fires are not uncommon in Scotland but they usually happen later in the season. The blocking brought warm, dry weather to Scotland unseasonably early but this has now been replaced by a blast of Arctic air.

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The West of Scotland is in general much wetter than most of the rest of Britain. The principal cause is orographic rain associated with the westerly winds from the Atlantic ocean that deposit water in the West as they rise over the mountains. However, it is often the case in spring that Scotland enjoys cool damp easterlies that lose moisture on the east side of the mountains, leading to noticeably clearer dry conditions in the west. I lived in Oban for quarter of a century and am well familiar with this pattern.

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Many small islands lack sufficient soil moisture because they have no water table, often as ecosystems ponds, puddles and rainfall and ambient humidity are only sources of water. A winter dry season of little snow or rain and all it takes to go up in flames.

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