So far the drought is far worse than last year

Drought monitor comparison, 2020 & 2021
Drought monitor comparison, similar dates in 2020 & 2021.

As @NOAANCElclimate pointed out, the Drought Monitor shows that the severity of the drought is far worse than it was at about the same date in 2020. Most of the areas in the 11 western states are in Severe, Extreme, or Exceptional Drought.

So far this year the 49 states outside Alaska have burned almost 2.2 million acres, about the same that burned in all of 2019. The 10-year all-year average for those 49 states is 6.4 million acres. In 2020 9.9 million acres burned in the lower 49 states.

Total Wildfire Acres burned 1985-2020

A year-to-date average would be helpful. The National Situation Report gives a number, but unfortunately it includes Alaska which is extremely variable. Fires there can be very large, burning for weeks or months usually with little to no suppression. In the last 10 years the acres burned in Alaska ranged from 181,169 in 2020 to 5,111,404 acres in 2015, with the higher number being 28 times the lower. In 2015 more acres burned there than in the other 49 states combined. Therefore, a year to date average that includes Alaska is virtually meaningless if you want to draw conclusions about the status of the wildfire season in the lower 49 states.

Alaska acres burned
Alaska Acres burned, 2011 – 2020. Raw data from NIFC, processed by Wildfire Today.

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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.

4 thoughts on “So far the drought is far worse than last year”

  1. Ted. Please provide a reliable source for the President saying this. Otherwise the comment will be deleted at the end of today, July 16.

    We make every effort to stick to the truth at Wildfire Today.

    I found an article at USA Today where the author wrote, “Many of the efforts at mitigation are unlikely to be in place by the start of wildfire season, which begins on July 24.” But a Google search could not find the President saying that, including a lengthy address he gave on June 30 about wildland fires that mentioned “wildfire season” or “fire season” 14 times.

    1. thank you for keeping to the truth! far too much heresay, rumor and downright [….. ] in this crazy world.


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