Wildfire potential, October through January

On October  1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for October through January. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If the prediction is accurate, October should see higher than normal wildfire activity in the northern Rockies and along the California coast.

Below are:

  • The highlights of the NIFC report;
  • NIFC’s graphical outlooks for September through November;
  • NOAA’s long range temperature and precipitation forecasts; and
  • Drought Monitor

“Abundant rain and mountain snowfall across the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, and Great Basin in mid-September ended the record dry conditions and brought fire danger indices down to seasonal levels entering October. While drought conditions continue across these areas, short-term fire impacts have been minimized. The Southeast continued to receive sufficient moisture, keeping the region at low potential for wildfire. Temperatures were above average for the month across the West. However, there was a significant cooling occurred with the mid-month rain and snow. By month’s end, temperatures had returned to average levels. In the East, temperatures were generally below average.

“Three historically significant weather events occurred during the month. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Coast, dropping 45 to 50 inches of rain and producing catastrophic flooding in southeast Texas, including the Houston area. Hurricane Irma battered the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico before making landfall in Florida as a major hurricane. Hurricane Maria crossed Puerto Rico with strong winds and considerable flooding, causing catastrophic damage to the island.

“Weather patterns along the West Coast allowed fuels to dry and become receptive to fire should events arise. October marks the beginning of the fall fire season in California as the state becomes susceptible to offshore winds. Events are typically multi-day in duration and vary in intensity. Indicators suggest that this could be an active season for the development of these events during October and November before the state exits its season in December. The fall is also typically a peak in fire activity for the Southeast. While normal significant fire potential is expected for most areas during this outlook period, the Southeast will need to be monitored for above normal conditions and activity in November.”


wildfire potential November

wildfire potential December January
Continue reading “Wildfire potential, October through January”

Looking back at NIFC’s June prediction for August-September wildfire activity

At the beginning of the month here on Wildfire Today we usually summarize the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC) monthly prediction of wildfire potential for the next three to four months. Their analysis represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

The primary variable factors that affect large scale wildfire activity are the condition of the fuel (vegetation) and the weather when the fires ignite and continue to burn. In the western United States the amount of the lighter fuels available, such as grass, is affected by the precipitation in the winter and spring. That same precipitation also affects the amount of moisture in the live fuels as well as the dead and down duff and woody material.

Another factor that we have often said is even more important than conditions in the winter and spring is the weather DURING the fire season. In the West if the summer is relatively cool and wet, the fire activity will be less intense than average. On the other hand, a hot, dry summer can lead to more acres burned than normal —  in spite of the winter/spring weather.

When someone asks me during the first six months of the year for my prediction of the coming Western fire season, I will tell them to ask me again in August.

This year many areas in the West had unusually high amounts of rain and snow over the winter which might have led some prognosticators to assume there would be fewer fires in the summer. But that has not been the case.

Nationally, according to NIFC, 8.4 million acres have burned so far this year, which is 47 percent higher than the 10-year average to this date. Montana, which accounts for 1.2 million of those blackened acres, has been a focal point for seemingly endless fires producing staggering quantities of smoke. Combined with the smoke created by other fires in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and northern California, the fouled air has affected residents across large sections of the country.

A spokesperson for Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Angela Wells, said “the period from June to August was the hottest and driest on record in Montana, and our fire season started about a month earlier than it usually does.”

It is extremely difficult to accurately predict the weather more than three or four days in advance. Attempting to forecast wildfire activity three or four MONTHS out, takes audacity. On June 1 NIFC produced the following graphic as part of their monthly report, illustrating their prediction for “normal” fire potential in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and extreme northwest California.

wildfire potential August September 2017As we now know, those areas had a very active summer fire season. The map below shows in red, heat on fires detected by a satellite on August 31, 2017.

wildfires map satellite heat
Fires detected by a satellite on August 31, 2017.

Here is an excerpt from NIFC’s analysis that was published on June 1, 2017:

Above normal precipitation and soil moisture is leading to a robust green-up across the West. Overall cooler than average temperatures and a heavy snowpack have led to slower than normal melting of the mountain snowpack in nearly all locations across the West. This should lead to a delayed start to the fire season in the higher elevations which may, in turn lead to a compressed season…

Above normal large fire potential will continue across southeastern Georgia and Florida into mid-June before the cumulative effects of precipitation events begin to take hold. Below Normal potential is expected across most of the remainder of the southeast through July before returning to Normal for August and September. Recent dry conditions across the southwest will lead to Above Normal potential across southeastern Arizona and Southern California. Below Normal to Normal large fire potential is also expected in the a majority of the higher elevations across the West in June and July.

July and August may be periods of concern. Above Normal potential is expected across the western portion of the Great Basin and across the middle elevations in California in July and August after the abundant grass crop cures. Fire activity will be mostly driven by short term weather events.

Below is the Drought Monitor from August 29, 2017:

weather forecast

Wildfire potential, September through December

The prediction for October shows enhanced fire potential for the Northern Rockies and much of western California.

On September 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for September through December. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

Below are:

  • the highlights of the NIFC report;
  • NIFC’s graphical outlooks for September through November;
  • NOAA’s long range temperature and precipitation forecasts; and
  • Drought Monitor

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“The Western fire season is reaching its peak for 2017 as it enters September. While an active southwestern monsoon has curtailed activity in the Southwest and across portions of the central Rockies, above normal significant fire activity continues to be observed across portions of the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, northern Great Basin and northern California. Fuel moisture levels and fire danger indices in these areas are at near-record to record levels for severity. While the frequency and density of lightning occurrence has begun its seasonal decline, occasional lightning bursts are still being observed. Most of the new lightning-caused fire starts are being effectively handled with initial attack, but a few are still developing into larger incidents that require additional resources. Drier and warmer than average conditions across the central Great Basin and Southern California are allowing for the fine fuels to become more receptive to fire activity. A slight upturn in initial attack activity is being observed in both areas. Cool and wet conditions have arrived in Alaska. Its season has effectively ended.

Precipitation received was generally well below average across the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, Great Basin and California in August as most areas received less than 25 percent of normal rainfall. Once exception to this was the Sierra Mountains in California where several episodes of wet convection produced rainfall amounts that were above average. Across the central Rockies and the Southwest, precipitation amounts were near average. Temperature extremes were less frequent in August than in July. For the month, average temperatures were only a few degrees above average.

Fire season will peak by mid-September as the fuels remain much drier than average and as existing precipitation trends continue. By mid-September decreasing solar radiation received and longer nights will allow for fuel moistures to begin recovering. Should a season-slowing weather event not occur, this will be sufficient to allow for the fire activity across the northwestern states to begin to decrease significantly late in the month. Significant large fire activity will remain possible in foehn wind-prone areas like the Rocky Mountain Front and across Southern California through November and will be event-driven should they occur.”

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weather forecast weather forecast weather forecast

Wildfire potential — August through November

The prediction for August shows enhanced fire potential for the Northern Rockies, Northern Nevada, and much of California and the Northwest.

On August 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for August through November. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

It revises the outlook that was issued for August a month ago, adding to the “Above Normal” category Northern Idaho, the eastern halves of Oregon and Washington, and Western Montana. Many of the August “Above Normal” areas will carry over into September except for the areas in Oregon and Washington.

Below are:

  • the highlights of the NIFC report;
  • NIFC’s graphical outlooks for September through November;
  • Drought Monitor, and;
  • NOAA’s long range temperature and precipitation forecasts.

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The seasonal transition of the western fire season north has occurred. A strong southwestern monsoon has developed over the Southwest and has reduced the significant large fire potential and activity across the Four Corners Region. Significant lightning activity associated with the monsoon has spread north creating numerous incidents across the northern Great Basin, Northern California, Pacific Northwest, and the Northern Rockies. With the fine fuels now fully cured and with larger fuels now receptive, even at the higher elevations, fire activity is increasing as it nears its seasonal peak in August. While the northwestern states have shown a significant upturn in activity, fire activity in Alaska has begun to wane with the arrival of the late summer rains across the Alaskan Interior. The eastern and southeastern states have seen and will continue to experience overall limited activity as the regions remain largely out of season.

Precipitation received was generally well below average across the western half of the country in July. With the occurrence of three significant heat wave events, fuels dried quickly and became receptive to fire earlier than in most years. By month’s end, the previous winter’s record snowpack and above average spring rainfall was a distant memory. Drought was beginning to reemerge in the Rockies and across portions of the Pacific Northwest. Across the northern Great Plains, the established long term drought conditions continued to worsen. Large fire activity became problematic across eastern Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

Looking forward to the peak of the western fire season in August and September, conditions are expected to remain favorable for the Above Normal significant fire activity to continue. Areas with the greatest potential for significant large fire activity will be the grasses and rangelands of the Pacific Northwest east of the Cascades, the lower and middle elevations across California, most of the Northern Rockies region. The grass and rangelands across the northern Great Basin will also continue to demonstrate Above Normal significant large fire potential and activity.

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September wildfire potential

October November wildfire potential

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90 day outlook weather

Wildfire potential July through October

Potential wildfire July

 

On July 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for July through October. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If it is accurate firefighters could be busy at times in California, the Great Basin, and the Northern Rockies.

Below are:

  • the highlights of the NIFC report;
  • NIFC’s graphical outlooks for July through October;
  • Drought Monitor, and;
  • NOAA’s long range temperature and precipitation forecasts.

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Fire activity across the West began to increase significantly in June as preexisting dry conditions along with record setting heat events allowed for the fuels to become critically dry across portions of the Southwest, southern Great Basin, and Southern California. By month’s end, fire activity began its usual expansion northward as fires became more frequent in the lower and middle elevations. Several wetting systems slowed fire activity in Alaska. The fire season in Georgia and Florida diminished as multiple wetting rain events relieved the pre existing drought conditions.

Timely precipitation along with above average soil moisture has led to the growth of an abundant crop of fine fuels across much of the west. Periodic cooler than average temperatures across the northwestern portion of the country has slowed curing and drying rates in the grasses and has continued to slow the melting rates of the remaining snowpack. The southwestern states, however, have been drier and more continuously warm than average for several months making fuels more receptive to fire activity. Due to below average precipitation received across the Great Plains portions of eastern Montana and the Dakotas should be monitored closely for a possible increase in fire activity in July. The eastern U.S. been largely milder than average as several frontal systems produced significant rainfall.

Above normal significant fire potential is expected across a large portion of the rangelands of the west through August before trending toward normal in September and October with seasonal changes that bring wetting precipitation. The Southwest can expect a typical end to its fire season as monsoonal moisture becomes more firmly established by the end of July. Higher elevations across northwestern states will continue to experience below normal significant fire potential in July followed by normal potential for August as high elevation heavy fuels begin to dry out. A normal reduction of fire activity is expected in September across much of the west. The eastern half of the nation is in full green-up and fuels are generally not receptive to significant fire activity. Expect these conditions to persist into fall.

wildfire potential August wildfire potential September October

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Drought Monitortemperature outlook precipitation outlook

Wildfire potential June through September

On June 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for June through September. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If it is accurate it looks like firefighters could be busy at times in Arizona, California, and Nevada, but not so much in the rest of the Western U.S.

Below are:

  • the highlights of their report;
  • NIFC’s graphical outlooks for June through September;
  • the Drought Monitor, and;
  • NOAA’s long range temperature and precipitation forecasts.

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“Florida and Georgia experienced slight relief during the latter half of May as moderately wet systems produced widespread precipitation in both states. Activity across the southwest including Southern California began to increase toward month’s end as the region began to enter its core fire season. Nationally, the acres burned were above average at the end of May largely due to the fire activity that occurred in early March across the southern Great Plains where more than a million acres burned. The number of fires may be a more reflective number this year and remains below average for 2017.

Above normal precipitation and soil moisture is leading to a robust green-up across the West. Overall cooler than average temperatures and a heavy snowpack have led to slower than normal melting of the mountain snowpack in nearly all locations across the West. This should lead to a delayed start to the fire season in the higher elevations which may, in turn lead to a compressed season.

Above normal large fire potential will continue across southeastern Georgia and Florida into mid-June before the cumulative effects of precipitation events begin to take hold. Below Normal potential is expected across most of the remainder of the southeast through July before returning to Normal for August and September. Recent dry conditions across the southwest will lead to Above Normal potential across southeastern Arizona and Southern California. Below Normal to Normal large fire potential is also expected in the a majority of the higher elevations across the West in June and July.

July and August may be periods of concern. Above Normal potential is expected across the western portion of the Great Basin and across the middle elevations in California in July and August after the abundant grass crop cures. Fire activity will be mostly driven by short term weather events. Looking north, Alaska appears to be transitioning into a normal fire season for June and July with late summer rains ending the season across the interior in August. Extended dry conditions on the west side of the big island in Hawaii will lead to Above Normal potential that should last into September.”

wildfire potential July 2017

wildfire potential August September 2017

Continue reading “Wildfire potential June through September”