“That fire behavior forecast should scare the hell out of you”

Dangerous wildfire conditions Tuesday in Southern Plains

Above: Wildland fire danger for Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The wildland fire danger on Tuesday is just that — dangerous. Weather forecasters are saying the strong winds, dry vegetation, and relative humidity that in some areas will drop into the single digits could be life-threatening fire weather. These extreme conditions, called “historic”, will continue into Tuesday night in most areas.

In the video below Deb Beard, the Trainee Incident Commander on the 67,000-acre 34 Complex of Fires in western Oklahoma, warned firefighters at the Tuesday morning briefing that “the fire behavior forecast should scare the hell out of you”.

Fire weather april 17, 2018 dangerous

Red Flag Warnings are in effect in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Fire weather april 17, 2018 dangerous wildfire red flag warning
Red Flag Warnings April 17, 2018,

Wildfire potential, April through July

By July Montana, California, Colorado, and the states in the Northwest could see above normal wildfire activity

(Originally published at 8:55 p.m. MT April 1, 2018)

On April 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for March through June. 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 narrative report for the next several months;
  • NIFC’s monthly graphical outlooks;
  • NOAA’s three-month temperature and precipitation forecasts; and
  • Drought Monitor.

“Wildfire activity will increase across portions of the nation in April. The central and southern Great Plains continue to experience significant wildland fire activity. While the activity observed is Above Normal, overall trends follow a traditional seasonal progression which keeps the fire potential elevated across these areas in early April but begins a westward shift further into the Southwest by month’s end. Periods of concern will be wind events coupled with low humidities that impact fire activity. Other areas of concern are the Florida Peninsula, eastern Georgia and South Carolina where drought conditions linger. Elevated potential exists across coastal portions of Southern California where drought continues and across portions of eastern Montana where very dry residual soil conditions exist. Pregreenup fire activity could elevate during westerly flow wind events.

“In May and June, the worsening drought conditions across the Southwest will lead to a continuance and expansion of the areas encompassed by an Above Normal potential for large fire activity. Fuels across the southern Great Basin and additional portions of California will become receptive as the vegetation dries and cures. Above Normal large fire potential across the Florida Peninsula in May will diminish by June as Sea/Land breeze convective activity begins to develop. Preexisting conditions across Alaska suggests a Normal potential for fire activity across the state’s interior.

“July marks the beginning of the core of the Western Fire Season. Concerns exist across the Interior West and California where a carryover of last year’s record grass crop coupled with the growth of an average grass crop this year will cure and become receptive. With a below average mountain snowpack observed from Oregon south to the border, an elevated potential may develop in the higher elevations by month’s end. Indicators suggest an early arrival of the Southwestern Monsoon. This should end the Southwestern season; however, the abundant convective activity will inevitably spread northward into the Great Basin and points north.”
wildfire potential May 2018 wildfire potential June 2018 wildfire potential July 2018

weather 90 day outlook

Drought Monitor
Drought Monitor

Elevated wildfire danger for the next 9 days in portions of CO, NM, TX, OK

Low humidities and frequent strong winds will challenge firefighters

Above: National Weather Service product for the Tucumcari, New Mexico area showing peak wind gusts and the potential for fire spread, March 17 through 25.

Originally published at 11:10 a.m. MDT March 17, 2018.

Firefighters could be busy for the next 9 days in portions of Southeast Colorado, Eastern New Mexico, the panhandle of Oklahoma, and Western Texas. The period begins Saturday with Red Flag Warnings in those areas for strong winds and low humidity. The pattern will continue off and on, mostly on, through the next weekend, March 25.

Red Flag Warnings wildfire
Red Flag Warnings (red) and Fire Weather Watches (yellow), March 17, 2018

The National Weather Service chart at the top of this article shows what models predict for potential fire spread in the Tucumcari, New Mexico area, which is just outside of the Red Flag Warning for today, Saturday. It is almost a certainty that the predicted 50 mph wind gusts for Tucumcari on Sunday will generate a Red Flag Warning. Below is the Weather Underground product for the same area, which is a 4,200 feet above sea level. It shows minimum relative humidities that are in the low teens for every day through March 26 with the exception of Monday March 19 when it bottoms out at 22 percent, still quite low. Strong winds are in the forecast for Sunday, Monday, and Thursday through Sunday.

Weather forecast Tucumcari NM
Weather forecast for Tucumcari, NM. Weather Underground.

Strong winds recorded in CO, NE, KS, and OK

Above: Map showing maximum wind gusts in Nebraska at 1:25 p.m. MST March 5, 2018.

(Originally published at 1:32 p.m. MST March 5, 2018)

As predicted in the Red Flag Warnings Monday morning, strong winds are are occurring in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

These maps of the four states show maximum wind gusts updated at 1:25 p.m. MST March 5, 2018.

Kansas

Kansas strong wind
Matt told us about a fire in Clark County, Kansas. The GOES 16 satellite detected it.

fire clark county kansas
The map below shows a fire detected by a satellite in Clark County Kansas at 1:15 p.m. CST March 5. It is south of Dodge City and west of Ashland.

UPDATE at 1:54 p.m. MST March 5, 2018: the satellite is detecting another fire in Kansas, farther west, near Hugoton.

UPDATE at 3:19 p.m. MST March 5, 2018. The fire in Clark County is reportedly contained. That fire and the one farther west are no longer being detected by the satellite.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma wind

Colorado

Colorado strong wind

Wildfire potential, March through June

In Southern California, the Southern Plains, and portions of the Southwest, wildfire potential should remain above normal through June.

Above: wildfire potential for March, 2018, issued March 1, 2018.

(Originally published at 5:10 p.m. MT March 1, 2018)

On March 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for March through June. 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, the wildfire potential in Southern California, the Southern Plains, and portions of the Southwest will remain above normal for the entire four-month period.

Below are:

  • The highlights of the NIFC narrative report for the next several months;
  • NIFC’s monthly graphical outlooks;
  • NOAA’s three-month temperature and precipitation forecasts; and
  • Drought Monitor.

“Wildfire activity is likely to increase in March in a manner typical to most years beginning in the central through southern Great Plains and the Southwest where preexisting drought conditions and fuel loadings have promoted an environment favorable for Above Normal significant wildland fire potential entering spring. While some improvement is expected across East Texas and Arkansas, areas to the west will likely see a continuance or an intensification of the Severe Drought conditions. Periods of special concern will be highlighted by passing weather systems that create periodic strong, westerly, downsloping winds. During such events, ignitions will be able to quickly become significant fires. Elevated large fire potential is also expected to continue across coastal portions of Southern California where preexisting dry conditions have left fuels in a very dry state.

“As the Western Fire Season continues to increase in activity across the Southwest in April, conditions across the central and southern Great Plains will gradually improve as greenup takes hold. Concerns across Southern California will remain as dry conditions will have led to a muted green up across the southern half of the state. Conditions in Alaska entering spring suggest a normal seasonal transition. While some areas of abnormally dry conditions exist across portions of the southwestern interior, large fire potential is expected to remain near normal entering May.

“The fire season activity across the Southwest will peak in May and June. Above Normal significant large fire potential is expected across the southern tier of the region during this period as drought conditions intensify under the dry, building heat. The same conditions will continue to promote Above Normal potential as well across Southern California. There is some indication that the Southwestern Monsoon may produce some initial surges in activity in late June. This could begin to slow activity across both regions while initiating the seasonal shift northward into the Great Basin. In Alaska, above average temperatures and near average precipitation across the state’s interior is expected to lead to Normal significant large fire potential for the core fire season months of May and June.”

April wildfire outlook weather

May wildfire outlook weather

June wildfire outlook weather

APRIL-JUNE 2018 WEATHER

Drought Monitor
Drought Monitor

Wildfire potential, February through May

Above: wildfire potential for February, 2018, issued February 1, 2018.

(Originally published at 1:41 p.m. MDT February 1, 2018)

On February 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for February through May. 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, the wildfire potential in Southern California and the Southern Plains will remain above normal for the entire four-month period and will increase in the Southwest and Northwestern Great Plains in Montana and North Dakota. The Eastern U.S. should expect normal or below normal potential.

Below are:

  • The highlights of the NIFC narrative report for the next several months;
  • NIFC’s monthly graphical outlooks;
  • NOAA’s three-month temperature and precipitation forecasts; and
  • Drought Monitor.

“The significant wildland fire potential forecasts included in this outlook represent the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services units and the National Predictive Services unit.

“Wildfire activity is likely to begin to increase in February as would be seasonally expected. During the early portions of the year it is typical for significant fires to begin to occur across the southern tier of the U.S. Currently it appears the highest likelihood for above normal significant wildland fire potential will be in place across portion of the southern plains and Florida and Georgia. Across the southern plains the last years precipitation totals have brought about a somewhat robust fine fuel crop, which will provide an elevated baseline of fire activity. When this elevated fuel condition is exacerbated by a period of dry and windy conditions it will provide opportunities for any ignitions to become significant fires.

“These incidents will be difficult to predict, but extra attention should be paid to this area when dry and windy conditions are forecasted. In Florida and Georgia the significant drought that led to amplified fire activity in the fall across the south has not improved. Moisture deficits in these fuel types are significant because they not only make ignition significantly more likely but they also make fires much more difficult to fight. Both conditions make the need for fire suppression resources higher. Both of these significant areas of above normal potential are likely continue through March and probably return to normal in April or May.

“At the end of the Outlook period significant fire potential across portions of Alaska will being to increase. This is also generally seasonally anticipated, however, the potential for above normal significant fire activity in the south central portion of the state is likely. Drought conditions indicate that some unusual dryness will be in place in this area as fire season begins. This will likely lead to earlier than usual ignitions and the potential for worse than usual fires. In the shorter term Hawaii is likely to see some elevated activity thanks to some unusual dryness, but this condition is expected to be short lived.

“Additionally, fire activity is expected to be below normal across western portions of Tennessee and Kentucky throughout the Outlook period.”


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wildfire potential April May

3-month temperature precipitation outlook

drought monitor
Drought Monitor