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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Wildfire potential for August through November

Above: Wildfire potential for August, 2018. NIFC.

(Originally published at 1:20 p.m. MDT August 1, 2018)

On August 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for August through November. 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 August and September firefighters will be busy in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and northern Nevada.

Below are:

  • 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.

“August is the peak month for fire activity across the West. Given the amount of lightning received along with preexisting heavy fuel loading and dryness, a very active month is expected with Above Normal significant wildland fire potential likely across portions of the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, northern Great Basin, and California. Typically, a weather event occurs by mid-September that brings moisture to regions experiencing significant fire activity which allows for the western fire season to begin to decrease in activity. Given ongoing trends that support a normal seasonal progression and given a transition from ENSO Neutral conditions to El Niño, such an event is expected. Most regions will exit the fire season at this point, but only a brief lull is expected across California before it enters its fall fire season by October and November. Given ongoing dryness in the fuels, the fall season may very well be robust across portions of the state.”

September 2018 wildfire potential

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Wildfire potential increases in California and the Northwest

(Originally published at 11:55 a.m. MDT July 2, 2018)

On July 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for July through October. 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 July the areas with the highest potential will move from the Southwest to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, California, and northern Nevada.

Below are:

  • The highlights of 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.

“Abnormally dry conditions along the West Coast allowed for a northward expansion of drought into western Oregon and Washington in June. Some improvement was noted across the southern Great Plains while drought emergence was observed across the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Preexisting drought conditions and continued drier than average conditions across the Southwest allowed for a normal progression of the fire season across the Four Corners Region until mid-month when the remnants of Hurricane Bud moved north from Mexico and produced widespread wetting rainfall that reduced the elevated large fire potential in that area. While rainfall amounts that were greater than 200% of average were received across Arizona, New Mexico, and portions of southwestern Colorado, the Great Basin and California remained very dry receiving less than 10% of average precipitation. Temperatures across the West were near average for the month from the Pacific Coast east to the Continental Divide. East of the Divide, temperatures were near average.

“The southwestern monsoon is expected to arrive in early July and should reduce fire activity across the Southwest. A normal refocusing of fire activity north into the Great Basin and west into California is expected. The existence of a continuous grass from this year along with carryover of fine fuels from 2017 should lead to Above Normal Significant Large Fire Potential in these areas. By late July, fire activity is expected to increase across Oregon and Washington. Entry into the Western Fire Season will be delayed slightly across most of the Northern Rockies due to the persistent wet systems that impacted the region through… However, precipitation data shows an area of below average precipitation for June across extreme northwestern Montana and northern Idaho. As a result, both areas could experience an early entry into the fire. In Alaska, the fire season will gradually come to an end in July as precipitation events become more frequent.

“August is the peak of the Western fire season. Seasonal transitions focus the fire activity over the northwestern quarter of the country, though California also continues to experience significant activity. With significant carryover of fine fuels from last year and an average grass crop growth this year, elevated fire potential is expected August through early September in this region from California and the Central Great Basin north to the Canadian Border. Higher elevations in the mountains may also see elevated fire potential as well should warmer and drier than average conditions develop as expected.

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Wildfire potential, June through September

(Originally published at 1:27 p.m. MDT June 1, 2018)

On June 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for June through September. 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 July the areas with the highest potential will move from the Southwest to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, California, and northern Nevada.

Below are:

  • The highlights of 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.

“Preexisting drought conditions along with continued drier than average conditions across the Southwest allowed for a normal progression of the western fire season across the Four Corners Region and West Texas in May. By month’s end, the focus of activity began to shift westward into Arizona and Southern California. Northern Minnesota and North Dakota experienced above average fire activity as drought conditions took hold. Alaska experienced a slight uptick in fire activity as fuels began to dry. However, the occurrence of periodic precipitation events allowed for a gradual entry into its fire season. Concerning precipitation trends were emerging across California, Oregon, and Washington as most locations received 50 percent of average precipitation or less during May. In the East, many locations across the Southeast, including Florida, received more than 300 percent of average precipitation during the month.

“The combination of deepening drought and the carryover of fine fuels from 2017 is expected to lead to a continuance of Above Normal Significant Large Fire Potential across western portions of the Four Corners Region and Southern California during June. Late June through early July are the peak of fire season across the Southwest and Alaska. During July, activity begins to spread west and north with the drying and curing of the fuels. The Southwestern monsoon begins and reduces fire activity across the Southwest while wetter patterns across Alaska become better established through the month thus drawing its season to a close. These climatologically normal transitions are expected to occur this year as the Western fire season begins to expand and intensify northward.

“Areas of heightened concern will be locations shown on the maps to the left that have both a significant carryover of fine fuels from 2017 and a normal growth of fine fuels this year. In addition, winter snowpack in the higher elevations along the West Coast was well below average, except in Washington State where it was near normal. However, a drier than average spring may offset the average snowpack and melting rates. This should allow for fuels in the mountains to become critically dry by mid-late July. Further inland, the Northern Rockies experienced a very snowy winter, and snowpack is melting at an average rate. However, a wet spring has promoted the growth of a very healthy, continuous crop of fine fuels that should become receptive to fire in the lower and middle elevations by mid to late July.

“August is the peak of the Western fire season. Seasonal transitions focus the fire activity over the northwestern quarter of the country, though California also continues to experience significant activity. With significant carryover of fine fuels from last year and average grass crop growth this year, elevated fire potential is expected through August and early September across many of the lower and middle elevations from the central Great Basin and California northward to the Canadian border. Higher elevations in the mountains may also see elevated fire potential as well should warmer and drier than average conditions develop as expected.

“Typically, a weather event occurs in mid-September that brings moisture to regions experiencing significant fire activity which allows for the western fire season to begin to decrease in activity. Anticipated trends in long range weather data suggests this to be the case this September as ENSO Neutral conditions begin to shift toward El Niño for the fall and winter months.”


wildfire potential outlook map July

wildfire potential outlook map August

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