Wildland fire potential, September through December

wildfire potential

On September 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for September through December, 2016. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit. Below are highlights from the outlook.


September is typically a month of significant change in fire conditions, especially across the northern tier of the United States. Days shorten, lessening available solar radiation to dry and heat fuels; longer nights are cooler with generally higher humidity. These conditions slowly reduce fire activity and typically end normal fire season activity throughout the month. This is expected to be the trend this season as well.

Throughout the northern portions of the Great Basin including portions of the Northwest, Northern Rockies and Rocky Mountain Areas above normal conditions will transition through the month to normal conditions and by the end of September normal conditions indicate minimal fire activity throughout this area. Occasional dry cold fronts during September and possibly October will present the potential for large fires on the landscape to grow rapidly; however, these conditions will be short in duration followed by opportunities for successful firefighting efforts. California will remain at above normal levels of fire activity throughout much of the state as dry conditions will continue and fall will bring the increased potential for offshore flow events.

wildfire potential

In October, November and December diminishing activity in the northern tier will transition to heightened activity across the southern tier; especially in central and southernCalifornia and the Southeast. California is not expected to see any significant events that will alleviate long term drought and very dry fuels. This will come with enhanced potential for offshore flow, increasing the potential for very dry and windy conditions. The southeastern United States is a significant wildcard moving into the fall months.

Tropical systems the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico could provide substantial relief to some if not all of the area.

If this dry area remains, fall fire activity in the Southeast will be amplified and could become significant throughout the fall and winter. It is possible significant changes will occur, but the current conditions dictate elevated potential is likely.

wildfire potential

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.