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

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
Continue reading “Wildfire potential, November through February”

Precipitation hits some areas in Western U.S.

(Originally published at 2:40 p.m. MDT October 3, 2018)

Precipitation last 72 hours
Precipitation 3 p.m. Sept. 30 to 3 p.m. Oct. 3. NWS. Click to enlarge.

(Originally published at 2:40 p.m. MDT October 3, 2018)

Quite a number of areas in the Western United States have received significant precipitation over the last 72 hours. The green, yellow, and red areas in the map above represent locations with more than one-third of an inch, which should impede the ignition or growth of wildfires.

The data in southern Arizona that shows two to four inches explains why rescues like the ones below were occurring in Phoenix.

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

Continue reading “Wildfire potential October through January”

Most of U.S. predicted to have above normal temperatures the rest of the year

temperature precipitation outlook

Today the National Weather service issued their long range temperature and precipitation outlooks for October through December. If their forecast is correct almost all of the United States is likely to have higher than normal temperatures the rest of this year. The precipitation outlook is more varied, with the Northwest expecting below normal amounts, while the Southwest, Southern Plains, the Gulf Coast and East Coast should receive above normal precip.