Increased wildfire activity predicted for British Columbia and Yukon

Wildfire potential for North America May, June, July, 2019
Wildfire potential for North America May, June, July, 2019. Click to enlarge.

The Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center has predicted above normal wildfire activity  this summer for southern Arizona, areas of California, and western Oregon and Washington.

An outlook for North America released on Friday also shows enhanced potential for British Columbia and the Yukon Territory in June and July.

Below is an excerpt from the North American Seasonal Fire Assessment and Outlook prepared by NIFC, Natural Resources Canada, and Servicio Meteorológico Nacional.

“For May, recent climate model runs suggest Canada will have lower fire severity than normal. While an early start to warm and dry conditions is leaving much of British Columbia prone to fire starts, rainfall is likely in the last half of the month, which will likely result in normal monthly fire severity for the province. The latest climate model runs hint at continued blocking ridges in the eastern Pacific during June, resulting in warm and dry conditions and resulting elevated fire severity indexes in British Columbia and Yukon. This pattern often features the eastern side of the ridge over the Prairies, so western Alberta also appears prone to elevated fire risk, while conditions east of Alberta are likely to have normal values. July’s forecast is similar to June’s forecast, with elevated fire severity indexes expected throughout British Columbia, western Alberta, and southern Yukon. A slight difference exists as the Yukon area depicted covers only the southern part of the territory in July, while in June it extended north near the Arctic coast.”

Wildfire potential for North America, May
Wildfire potential for North America, May 2019.
Wildfire potential for North America, June
Wildfire potential for North America, June 2019.
Wildfire potential for North America
Wildfire potential for North America, July 2019.

Wildfire potential, May through August

If NIFC’s analysis is correct, wildfire activity along the west coast will grow substantially into the summer

wildfire potential

On May 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for May through August. 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 wildfire potential in areas along the west coast will grow substantially into the summer.

The multi-year drought in California has been virtually neutralized due to substantial quantities of winter rain and snow. An area to watch will be the west sides of Oregon and Washington.

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.

“Greenup is occurring across the nation entering May; fuels across the Southwest are now drying and curing and will become increasingly receptive to fire activity as the month progresses. Looking north, Alaska’s interior is becoming drier and increasing activity is expected. By late May and early June, California and the southern Great Basin will see an increase in activity as fine fuels dry and cure. In July, low and middle elevation fine fuels will dry across the remainder of the West and will gradually become receptive to fire activity from south to north. Unlike most years, there could be a delayed start to the season in the higher, timbered elevations due to preexisting weather conditions and slower than average snowpack melting rates. An exception to this could be along the Canadian Border with Washington, Idaho, and western Montana where below average snowpack and moderate drought conditions exist. These areas can expect an average start to the season with a potential for above normal activity. A normal transition out of fire season is expected across Alaska in July. The onset of the southwestern monsoon may be slightly delayed.

“August marks the beginning of the peak of the western fire season. Most of the country can expect Normal conditions. Exceptions will be along the West Coast. A heavy crop of grasses and fine fuels has developed across California and should elevate the potential as it cures and dries. Higher elevations in the Sierra will likely see a late entry into the season due to the record-setting snowpack and slow meltoff. The Pacific Northwest has entered a period of moderate drought. An early entry is possible across the Cascades and in the Okanogan. Elsewhere, some high elevations across the Great Basin and central Rockies could experience Below Normal potential and conditions.”

wildfire potential

Continue reading “Wildfire potential, May through August”

Wildfire potential, April through July

The outlook predicts above normal potential for western Washington and northwest Oregon

April 2019

On April 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for April through July. 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, western Washington and northwest Oregon should see above normal wildfire activity through mid-summer. In June wildfire potential should pick up in the coastal mountains of California while most of the Sierra Nevada Mountains are expected to have below normal activity during those two months.

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.

“As the spring greenup begins to take hold across the West in April, mountain snowpack will begin to melt. Snowpack melting rates are a more important factor than snowpack levels in assessing potential fire season activity ahead. An average or slower than average melting rate can allow for a late entry of the timbered elevations into the fire season, whereas a faster melting rate will allow for high elevation fuels to become receptive to fire sooner. In 2019, an average to cooler than average spring is expected, so melting rates should be near average which could result in a delayed fire season entry in areas that have abundant snowpack. An early entry is possible along the Canadian border in areas that have a below average snowpack. In the middle and lower elevations, abundant winter and spring moisture should translate to a heavy crop of fine fuels that will become increasingly receptive to fire activity across the West from south to north in May, June, and July.

“In Alaska, warmer than average temperatures should lead to an early snowpack loss and early entry into the fire season. A possibility exists that precipitation could become above average from June onward. This could lessen some of the state’s peak season fire potential during the second half of the season. After an active early start to the season, fire activity across the state should trend toward average conditions. Hawaii and Puerto Rico will continue to see slightly elevated potential early in the outlook period until the impacts of tropical weather conditions begin to be felt. The Southwestern fire season should begin to end in early July as a below average and perhaps late monsoon arrives.”

May 2019
Continue reading “Wildfire potential, April through July”

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

Continue reading “Wildfire potential, March through June”

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

Continue reading “Wildfire potential, February through May”

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