Wildfire potential, March through June

If NIFC’s analysis is correct, wildfire activity should begin to increase in Eastern New Mexico and Western Texas in April.

wildfire potential fire danger outlook forecastOn March 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for March through June. 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, in April wildfire activity should begin to increase in Eastern New Mexico and Western Texas. In May it will transition to the greater Grand Canyon area, with much of California added in June.

Below:

  • 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; and,
  • Drought Monitor.

The majority of the nation remained out of fire season in February. The minimal fire activity observed continued to be well below average nation-wide. What was observed was minimal and limited mainly to the western fringes of the Southern Area. While a weak El Niño persisted, resulting weather conditions were atypical to what is often observed during such events. Precipitation was generally near to above average in most locations except for two regions. The central and southern Great Plains were especially dry, and the Deep South had pockets of dry conditions as well. Portions of West Texas and eastern New Mexico received less than 5% of average precipitation. Overall, the Deep South fared better but portions of the Carolinas and the lower Mississippi River Valley recorded below average precipitation.

Temperatures were generally within about 3 degrees of average across the country. A slight cold bias existed in the West and across the northern tier. A slight warm bias existed across the South and Texas. Extreme departures from average were observed across the northern Great Plains where temperatures were as much as 25 degrees below average.

The frequency and strength of Pacific weather systems moving on shore and across the West allowed for above average precipitation to reduce the severity and scope of the ongoing drought across California and portions of Oregon and the Great Basin. Incredible amounts of snowfall intermittently shut down travel across the High Sierra in California. Soil moisture levels improved across most areas except western Oregon where the persistent dry conditions continued.

March is a transition month. Pregreenup grassfire activity is not uncommon along and east of the Rocky Mountain Front. At least average activity is expected until green up takes hold. Concerns decrease west of the Continental Divide where sustained periods of wet and cold conditions have persisted the past few months. As greenup takes hold in April, most areas experiencing preseason activity should begin to see a decrease except for the Southwest where the drying of fuels begins to show a gradual westward migration of fire activity.

Fire activity in May and June should increase in coverage and intensity across the Southwest and California. Some slight expansion of activity into the southern Great Basin is also expected. The above average precipitation received during the late winter and early spring months could translate to another above average grass crop that could prove to be problematic in June.

wildfire potential fire danger outlook forecast

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Wildfire potential, February through May

Wildfire potential in United States is expected be normal or below normal in most areas during the coming four months

February wildfire potential outlook

After missing the January edition of the monthly fire potential outlook due to the shutdown of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, today the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center 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 their analysis is correct, the wildfire potential for United States will be normal during the coming four months, except it will be below normal for most of the South and above normal for Hawaii.

The format of the written outlook has recently evolved. Verbiage about past weather and fuel conditions over the previous 30 to 60 days is more prominent along with descriptions for what is normal for the present and near future. Forecasts for what land managers will be faced with in the coming months are still in the document, and can be found in the sections for each geographic area.

Below:

  • 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; and,
  • Drought Monitor.

Here is one section that discusses El Niño:

“Impacts from a fading El Niño event on late winter and spring weather conditions vary. They typically result in below average snowpack across the northwestern quarter of the nation and above average snowpack across the central portion of the West. The southern tier of the nation tends to experience wetter than average conditions, except possibly across West Texas which can be drier than average. The northern tier of the nation can be warmer than average which would promote a faster melting rate of the snowpack in the mountains across the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies.”

March wildfire potential outlook

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Forecasters expect the West to be warmer and drier than average later in January

The east should be cooler, while the Drought Monitor shows Severe to Exceptional drought in the Four Corners area.

outlook for precipitation January
The outlook for precipitation in the second half of January.

The three to four-week outlook issued January 4 for the second half of January predicts warmer and drier conditions in the Western United States. Areas east of the Rocky Mountains should be cooler. According to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center this is tied to tropical teleconnection responses and a building 500-hPa ridge forecast over northwestern North America.

Probably as a result of the partial shutdown of the federal government the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center has not issued an updated Wildland Fire Potential Outlook at the beginning of the month as is customary.

outlook for temperature January
The outlook for temperature in the second half of January.

Below is the Drought Monitor released January 3, 2018.

Drought Monitor
The Drought Monitor shows Severe to Exceptional drought in the Four Corners area.

Drought Monitor legend

Wildfire potential, November through February

November wildfire outlook weather

On November 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for November through February. 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, the only areas with above normal wildfire activity during the period will be Southern California in November and December, and Hawaii December through February.

Below:

  • 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; and,
  • Drought Monitor.

“Much of the West exited fire season by early October as the frequency of wet systems moving across the country increased. Cooler temperatures brought higher humidity levels and good overnight recoveries which also reduced large fire potential. As anticipated, the frequency of Santa Ana and North Wind events across California was lower than average, so critical fire weather periods were infrequent and of short duration. Nevertheless, fire activity was observed in isolated locations across the region in the remaining pockets where fuels remained critically dry. The Klondike fire made large runs mid-month. In the East, fire activity was also less active than average. This was due to the onset of a weak El Niño which promoted wetter than average conditions. The primary draw on resources was in response to Hurricane Michael which made landfall at Mexico Beach, Florida, with 155 mph winds.

“While most regions of the country are out of fire season during November, varying levels of activity are observed across California and the Southeast. The onset of El Niño should allow for a continuance of wetter than average conditions across the Southeast which should limit fire activity. However, pockets of critically dry fuels will persist across California, especially along coastal areas and along the front of the Southern Sierra. These areas will remain susceptible during wind events.

“Climatologically speaking, fire activity during the winter months, December through February, is at a minimum. Areas most susceptible to activity are generally restricted to the southeastern states where periodic increases in fire activity are possible during dry periods until spring greenup begins. However, current data and expected trends in precipitation suggest that large fire potential will be Below Normal in this region. The abundance of moisture should keep fuels in most areas from becoming critically dry. Drought forecasts project that the region should remain mostly free of drought.

“Across the West, overall warmer and drier than average conditions are expected. This should lead to below average snowpack in most mountain locations across the northern tier of the country. Snowpack should trend toward average levels moving south along the Continental Divide as the impacts of the El Niño begin to produce a positive effect on precipitation amounts received.”


December wildfire outlook weather
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Wildfire potential October through January

(Originally published at 4:48 p.m. MDT October 1, 2018)

On October 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for October through January. 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, the only areas with above normal wildfire activity in October will be California, Southern Idaho, and Northern Nevada. Those areas will shrink in November to just Central and Southern California, and in December to just Southern California and the Central Coast. In January only Hawaii will have above normal potential.

Below:

  • 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; and,
  • Drought Monitor.

“October and November mark another transition in the western fire season as the focus typically shifts to California as occasional Foehn wind events develop. The Southeast also typically experiences a fall peak during this period. The fall season this year might not follow the traditional script, however. Expected long-range weather patterns for at least October do not support the development of a significant number of wind events. While they may occur, the total number of events should be less than average. Considering that expected precipitation will be below average during this period, this could be a big factor in keeping some of the impacts from having an elevated potential at bay. Across the Southeast, conditions have been very wet over the past several months. With the potential development of an El Niño, the wet pattern is not likely to change. This should result in overall Normal to Below Normal significant wildland fire potential throughout the remainder of the fall.

“Transitioning from November into December and January, all regions are expected to experience reduced fire activity with the arrival of winter. Brief periods of critical fire weather conditions could elevate fire potential during occasional wind events over areas that are not snow covered. Events such as this are generally short in duration. Areas to monitor are along the Rocky Mountain Front, the Great Basin, the Southwest, and the southern Great Plains (during January.) All of these areas were experiencing some measure of drought at the end of September though some improvement is expected along the Rocky Mountain Front in southern Colorado and New Mexico.”

wildfire potential september through January

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Wildfire potential September through December

Originally published at 10 p.m. MDT September 1, 2018)

wildfire potential September OctoberOn September 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for September through December. 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 September the wildfire potential will decrease in the Northern Rockies, which is not unusual for this time of the year, but remain elevated in Central Texas, California, Nevada, and the Cascades. For October through December the potential should remain high in Southern California, with no sign of a busier than usual fall fire season in the Southern Great Plains or the Southeast.

Below:

  • An excerpt from 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.

“The western fire season peaked in August as very hot and dry conditions continued under the presence of a very strong, persistent high pressure ridge during the first three weeks of the month. Many approached or broke all-time record highs during the second week of the month. Not surprisingly, many fires became quite large including the Mendocino Complex which burned more than 420,000 acres making it the largest fire on record in California. Most fires observed were in areas of preexisting or developing drought.

“Along the West Coast, drought intensification and expansion was observed across Oregon and Washington. Further inland, abnormally dry conditions developed across Nevada, Idaho, and western Montana. Drought intensification and expansion was also observed across the Great Lakes region. While pockets of extreme to exceptional drought continued across the Four Corner states, the active monsoon was allowing for some improvement to occur. Nearly the entire West Coast received less than 25% of average precipitation. Significant deficits extended inland into the Great Basin and the Northern Rockies where large areas received less than 50% of average precipitation.

“Most of Texas and the central Great Plains received above average precipitation in August. Amounts across Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas received 200% to 400% of average precipitation. The East Coast received similar amounts. Temperatures nationwide were generally near to slightly above average except across the central Great Plains where they were a few degrees below average. Alaska fully exited the season mid-month as a wet and cool patter took hold across the Interior. Hawaii experienced large fire activity as well; however, the heavy rains from Hurricane Lane quickly reduced fire potential across the state.

“September is a transitional month for the West. Critical fire weather periods become increasingly driven by occasional wind events resulting from passing cold fronts or by a strong westerly flow. The transition this year began a few weeks early. A shift to a fall-like pattern began the last week of August. Overall normal significant large fire potential is expected in most areas across the West except along the Canadian border with northeastern Washington, extreme northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana where above normal potential is expected. Debris from Hurricane Lane may produce heavy dead fuel loadings across Hawaii which could become receptive should abnormally dry conditions develop. Portions of northwestern Nevada and northeastern California could remain elevated as well given continued fuel dryness and a propensity for wind events.

“In October, the continued seasonal transition into fall will allow for colder air to become entrenched across the Great Basin thus creating a high pressure ridge that should periodically induce Foehn Wind events across both Northern and Southern California. Other regions across the Westshould fully exit fire season. In the East, preexisting drought conditions across the Great Lakes Region cloud promote wind-driven events should the fuels remain dry after leaf drop. The remainder of the East is largely free of drought entering late fall.

“November and December are traditionally months where fire activity is reduced. The focus during this period generally shifts from California to the Southeast where during dry years, significant fire activity can be observed. Latest data suggests that the late fall period will experience at least average conditions if not wetter than average conditions in some locations. So, Normal Significant Large Fire Potential is expected across most of country during the remainder of the outlook period.”

wildfire potential November December

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