July could bring elevated wildfire potential to parts of the west coast, Alaska, Arizona, and the Southeast

Moderate to severe drought conditions exist in western Oregon and Washington

wildfire outlook 2019 July

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 NIFC’s analysis is correct, areas in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Alaska, and California will have elevated potential for wildfires at times during the four month period. Forecasters predict portions of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas will have enhanced potential in July.

The areas affected by the multi-year drought in the West have greatly decreased to the point where there are no locations with extreme or exceptional drought. No areas in California are listed as being in drought status, which is a major change from five or six months ago.

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;
  • Drought Monitor;
  • Vegetation greenness map.

From NIFC:

“Moderate to severe drought conditions exist across Washington and Oregon, especially across western portions of both states. Soil moisture levels are drier than average and drought stress exists. Another area of concern is southern Arizona. While fuel conditions across most of the Southwest exhibit above average fuel moisture and greenness, the southern third of the state is the anomaly. Areas along and north of the Mexican Border remain persistently dry. Periodic wind events have led to critical periods with above normal activity observed. This area will remain a concern until the monsoon arrives in July.

“Alaska experienced a slow entry into its season. By mid-June fire activity increased significantly as fuels continued dried. Numerous lightning events produced a significant number of fire starts. The consistent warm and dry pattern observed at month’s end suggested that the state will continue to be active well into July before the season begins to wind down with the arrival of late summer rains in August.

“In California, robust crop of grasses has grown. The fuel beds have become more continuous than what is typically seen. When the hot, dry, and windy patterns develop during the middle to late summer months, the large fire potential in these areas will elevate. In the higher elevations, the abundant moisture received translated into historic snowfall. This and slow melting rates will translate into a delayed entry into the fire season. To the east, concerns across the Great Basin are rising due to heavy fuel loading and an expected long-duration heat event in early July that should propel the region into fire season.

“With fine fuels fully cured across the West and high elevation larger fuels becoming adequately dry in August, fire season 2019 will peak in August across much of the West. Exceptions to this will be the Southwest where an ongoing monsoon reduced fire activity and the central Rockies, which may not have enough time to fully dry and cure before monsoonal moisture, begins to affect the region.

“A gradual decrease in fire activity is expected to begin by mid-September as the seasonal transition begins and as shortening days translate to shorter burn periods and better overall humidity recoveries overnight. California will begin to reenter fire season in October as East and North wind events begin to occur.”


wildfire outlook 2019 August
Continue reading “July could bring elevated wildfire potential to parts of the west coast, Alaska, Arizona, and the Southeast”

Forecasters predict the potential for large wildfires will be higher than average on the west coast this summer

Areas to watch will be Northern California and the west sides of Oregon and Washington

June wildfire potential

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 NIFC’s analysis is correct, the areas with above normal wildfire potential on the western sides of Washington, Oregon, and California will expand during the four-month period until they cover most of the forested lands in California as well as northern Washington and Idaho. Forecasters predict portions of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas will have enhanced potential in June and July.

The areas affected by  the multi-year drought in the West have greatly decreased to the point where there are no locations with extreme or exceptional drought. Northwestern Oregon is classified as “severe drought” and this could be an area to watch over the summer 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.
  • Vegetation greenness maps

From NIFC:
“…As June progresses, the fine fuels will begin to cure and dry from south to north across the West. Lingering high elevation snowpack should be lost. Wildfire activity should begin to increase by late month as peak of the fire season begins to arrive as July and August approach. As is the case with the lower elevation fuels, the high elevation heavy fuels will also experience a delayed entry into the season except along the Canadian Border in Washington State where overall dryness will lead to an average start with a potential for above normal activity. Alaska will reach its peak in June and begin to wind down in July.

“Looking ahead to August and September the fire potential and resulting activity should increase to Normal in most areas except along the West Coast where Above Normal significant large fire potential is expected due to fuel loading and preexisting dry conditions. A traditional winding down of the Western fire season is expected in Mid-September as fall moisture begins to arrive…”

July wildfire potential

August wildfire potential

Continue reading “Forecasters predict the potential for large wildfires will be higher than average on the west coast this summer”

Map showing 10 days of precipitation helps explain widespread flooding

Cumulative precipitation 10-day period
Cumulative precipitation over the 10-day period ending Mary 29. NWS data processed by Wildfire Today. Click to enlarge.

This map showing cumulative precipitation over the 10-day period ending May 29 helps explain some of the recent widespread flooding in the middle of the country. It looks like a few areas had more than 12 inches. Many locations had more than 6.

(I don’t know why data for those five western states does not show up.)

A couple of highlights from Matt Jolly’s fire weather presentation

fire danger firefighter entrapments
Association between weather and firefighter entrapments. From Matt Jolly presentation, May 2, 2019. Click to enlarge.

At the International Association of Wildland Fire’s Fuels conference currently underway in Albuquerque, Research Ecologist Matt Jolly’s presentation on “Mapping extreme fire weather and its impact on firefighter safety” was very interesting. In his allotted 20 minutes he began by talking about the rollout that is nearly complete of the third revision of the National Fire Danger Rating System.

Mr. Jolly described the development and evaluation of an extreme fire weather metric called the Severe Fire Weather Potential Index. The Index is strongly correlated to wildland fire occurrence and intensity detected by the MODIS satellite and is a strong predictor of wildland firefighter entrapments and fatalities from 1979 to 2017.

wildfiresafe app
WildfireSafe app. From Matt Jolly presentation, May 2, 2019.

Mr. Jolly said some firefighters have told him that the WildfireSafe app which has been in the prototype stage for the last three years is a useful tool for accurately predicting the fire danger at the local level.

These images were snapped with a cell phone during Mr. Jolly’s presentation.