Southern California could see elevated wildfire danger in April & May

NIFC issues updated report on wildfire potential

February wildfire potential

The Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center has 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 NIFC’s analysis is correct the only area with above average potential for wildfires during February and March will be Hawaii. However the southern coastal area of California is expected to see above average wildfire potential in April and May.


  • An excerpt from the NIFC narrative report for the next several months;
  • More of NIFC’s monthly graphical outlooks;
  • NOAA’s three-month temperature and precipitation forecasts;
  • Drought Monitor;
  • Keetch-Byram Drought Index.

Here is an excerpt from a portion of the report that discusses the possibility of increasing fire potential in southern California in April and May.

“Due to a ridge replacing the trough, the weather has turned very dry since the start of 2020. Precipitation during the past 30 days has been, on average, 30-50% of normal across the Geographic Area. Some places in Southern CA are closer to the 10-25% range in comparison to normal since January 1st . Temperatures have been slightly above normal, especially near the coast, but offshore wind events have been infrequent and of light intensity.

“The drier weather coinciding with what is normally the wettest time of the year is concerning regarding the long term curing and drying cycle of seasonal grasses and other fine fuel types. Long range models are all depicting drier than normal conditions during the February through April timeframe, but some ensemble members point toward a wetter period returning in March. This may be too late to forestall an earlier than normal curing of grasses as subsoil moisture in the first few inches of topsoil will likely be depleted by then. Therefore, we are expecting large fire potential to climb to Above Normal levels due to an early onset of springtime “grassfire season.” Heavier, dead fuels may become involved by the time warmer temperatures arrive in May. Long range models also point toward a warmer than average temperature regime through May which may compound the problem.

“Resource demand will likely increase rapidly across Southern California by the end of March or in April. From there, large fire potential may climb to Above Average across central portions of the state by the late spring or early summer months. At this time, offshore wind events are expected to occur at a near normal rate, but even a quiet offshore pattern may not alleviate the effects of a dry late winter and spring.”

March wildfire potential April wildfire potential May wildfire potential

temperature and precipitation 90 day outlook
Temperature and precipitation outlook for February, March, and April, 2020. NOAA.
Drought Monitor
Drought Monitor


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. Google+

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