Wildfire potential, April through July

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

If their predictions are accurate, In April the fire potential should be above normal in the upper midwest, southern Alaska, northern great plains, and southern California.

Here are the highlights from their outlook.

April

wildfire outlook

  • Above normal wildland fire potential across the north central U.S. will expand.
  • Above normal wildland fire potential will develop across portions of Southern California.
  • Above normal wildland fire potential will become prevalent across southern Alaska.
  • Below normal wildland fire potential will continue along the coastal plain of the Southeast as well as Puerto Rico.

May

wildfire outlook

  • Wildland fire potential across the north central portion of the U.S. will return to normal in May
  • Above normal wildland fire potential will expand across into northern California, southwestern Arizona, and much of Hawaii.
  • Above normal wildland fire potential will persist across most of southern Alaska.
  • Below normal fire potential will develop on the southern Rockies Front Range and persist in Puerto Rico.

June & July

wildfire outlook

  • Above normal wildland fire potential will expand to across the West Coast, part of the northern Rockies and Great Basin, and continue for most of Hawaii.
  • Wildland fire potential will return to normal for southern Alaska.
  • Below normal wildland fire potential will spread across the Tennessee and Lower Mississippi Valleys.

And from NOAA and the USDA:

Drought Monitor

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Contemplating the Alaska fire season

grizzly bear

A grizzly bear near Bill Gabbert’s campsite in Denali National Park in Alaska. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

It can be a fool’s errand to attempt to predict the severity of a wildfire season. Using past weather data to predict the nature and number of future fires often fails.

But an article written by Ben Boettger for the Peninsula Clarion is more intelligent than most about discussing what affects a fire season and what this one might look like.

Below are some excerpts from his article:

…[Meteorologist Sharon Alden of the Alaska Fire Service’s predictive office] said there is not a correlation between a warm winter and a busy fire season, nor a correlation between a less-snowy winter and a busy fire season.

“However, there is a correlation between snowpack and the early fire season—how fast things melt out, how soon fire season starts,” Alden said.

Alden said that the intensity of fire season is more tied to precipitation than temperature, leading Fire Services to begin early preparation during the critical months of spring.

“In early spring, before green-up, the forest fuels are dryer,” Alden said. “When you have green-up, when you have trees fleshing out and new green grass is growing, you have more moisture around and it becomes a little less receptive to getting a fire started.”

In addition to leaving less moisture on the ground, a lack of snow contributes to an early fire season through its effect on grass, since grass crushed down by snow burns less easily than standing grass. Kristi Bulock, fire management officer for the US Fish and Wildlife Service region that includes the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, said that the locally-abundant calamogrostis grass is a particularly good wildfire fuel.

“One of the concerns we have this year is that without the snowpack, the grass is still three feet tall,” Bulock said. “It’s up and it’s fluffy, and it’s available for burning, where generally, under a good snowpack, it would be matted down. And then as we start getting green-up we would start getting green shoots in between, and that would lessen the potential for that fuel to carry fire. But if you look out your window now you see these giant patches of cured grass… if we have any kind of ignition source — a cigarette, somebody dragging a chain on the road — the potential could be there for it to really move through that grass…”

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Critical fire on Wednesday in Nebraska

Critical fire danger 3-11-2015

The map showing critical fire weather and a Red Flag Warning in Nebraska for Wednesday looks like a bulls eye in the center of the country. Elevated fire danger is in the forecast for parts of South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.

Over the next couple of days portions of South Dakota and Nebraska are expecting highs in the 60s and 70s, winds 20 to 35 mph, and relative humidity of 20 to 35 percent.

elevated fire danger south dakota nebraska

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