Precipitation and temperature outlook for this summer

Yesterday the National Interagency Fire Center released their monthly wildfire potential outlook for the next four months. They predicted that in July the areas with the highest potential will move from the Southwest to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, California, and northern Nevada.

These charts show the National Weather Service’s outlook for precipitation and temperature for June through August, 2018.

precipitation outlook june july august

Wildfire potential, June through September

(Originally published at 1:27 p.m. MDT June 1, 2018)

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 their analysis is correct, in July the areas with the highest potential will move from the Southwest to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, California, and northern Nevada.

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.

“Preexisting drought conditions along with continued drier than average conditions across the Southwest allowed for a normal progression of the western fire season across the Four Corners Region and West Texas in May. By month’s end, the focus of activity began to shift westward into Arizona and Southern California. Northern Minnesota and North Dakota experienced above average fire activity as drought conditions took hold. Alaska experienced a slight uptick in fire activity as fuels began to dry. However, the occurrence of periodic precipitation events allowed for a gradual entry into its fire season. Concerning precipitation trends were emerging across California, Oregon, and Washington as most locations received 50 percent of average precipitation or less during May. In the East, many locations across the Southeast, including Florida, received more than 300 percent of average precipitation during the month.

“The combination of deepening drought and the carryover of fine fuels from 2017 is expected to lead to a continuance of Above Normal Significant Large Fire Potential across western portions of the Four Corners Region and Southern California during June. Late June through early July are the peak of fire season across the Southwest and Alaska. During July, activity begins to spread west and north with the drying and curing of the fuels. The Southwestern monsoon begins and reduces fire activity across the Southwest while wetter patterns across Alaska become better established through the month thus drawing its season to a close. These climatologically normal transitions are expected to occur this year as the Western fire season begins to expand and intensify northward.

“Areas of heightened concern will be locations shown on the maps to the left that have both a significant carryover of fine fuels from 2017 and a normal growth of fine fuels this year. In addition, winter snowpack in the higher elevations along the West Coast was well below average, except in Washington State where it was near normal. However, a drier than average spring may offset the average snowpack and melting rates. This should allow for fuels in the mountains to become critically dry by mid-late July. Further inland, the Northern Rockies experienced a very snowy winter, and snowpack is melting at an average rate. However, a wet spring has promoted the growth of a very healthy, continuous crop of fine fuels that should become receptive to fire in the lower and middle elevations by mid to late July.

“August is the peak of the Western fire season. Seasonal transitions focus the fire activity over the northwestern quarter of the country, though California also continues to experience significant activity. With significant carryover of fine fuels from last year and average grass crop growth this year, elevated fire potential is expected through August and early September across many of the lower and middle elevations from the central Great Basin and California northward to the Canadian border. Higher elevations in the mountains may also see elevated fire potential as well should warmer and drier than average conditions develop as expected.

“Typically, a weather event occurs in mid-September that brings moisture to regions experiencing significant fire activity which allows for the western fire season to begin to decrease in activity. Anticipated trends in long range weather data suggests this to be the case this September as ENSO Neutral conditions begin to shift toward El Niño for the fall and winter months.”


wildfire potential outlook map July

wildfire potential outlook map August

Continue reading “Wildfire potential, June through September”

Wildfire potential, May through August

(Originally published at 12:03 p.m. MDT May 1, 2018)

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

If their analysis is correct, in July and August California, the northwest, and the northern Rockies will experience above normal wildfire activity.

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.

“Preexisting drought conditions along with several wind events allowed for fire activity across the southern Great Plains and New Mexico to increase in April. By month’s end, activity was beginning to spread westward into Arizona and southern California. Entering May, a normal progression of fire activity is being observed as the Great Plains begins to receive its spring rainfall while the Southwest continues to be dry. What is atypical is the drought severity that is in place across the Four Corners Region and now southern California. The drought coupled with the carryover of an above average fine fuel growth from last year is expected to lead to Above Normal Significant Wildland Fire Potential in May and June across portions of the Southwest, Great Basin, and southern California. In the East, the elevated potential across Florida and portions of Georgia will return to Normal potential as summertime convective patterns ensue.

“The peak of the fire season in the Southwest is expected to occur by late June, just before the onset of the annual monsoon season which should gradually bring their season to a close. Data suggests that the monsoon’s arrival should occur by early July. The projected focus of the monsoon’s early surges will be across New Mexico and Colorado but will refocus westward as July progresses. A normal transition of fire season activity west and north is expected through July as warmer and drier than average conditions develop across the western states. Of concern is the preexisting grass crop from 2017 and the new growth which will cure by July across California, the Great Basin, and Oregon. Higher, timbered elevations in these areas will become a concern by July as the past winter’s below average snowpack melts allowing for the high elevation fuels to become dry enough to support fire activity.

“In August, seasonal transitions focus the fire activity over the northwestern quarter of the country, though central and southern California also continue to experience significant activity. With significant carryover of fine fuels from last year and average grass crop growth this year, elevated fire potential will continue into August across many of the lower and middle elevations from the central Great Basin and California northward to Canada. Higher elevations in the Cascades, Northern Sierras, and possibly the Northern Rockies may also see elevated fire potential as well should warmer and drier than average conditions develop as expected.

“In Alaska, Normal Significant Wildland Fire Potential is expected as the state experiences a typical transition into fire season. Conditions across the state have been generally wetter than average while temperatures have been warmer than average. Since this pattern is expected to continue through the core of the Alaskan fire season, the potential for Above Normal Significant Wildland Fire Activity is low.”

wildfire potential June

wildfire potential July

wildfire potential August

temperature 0utlook

Precipitation outlook

Drought Monitor
Drought Monitor

“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 April through July. 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.