Below are summaries from the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, provided by the National Interagency Fire Center, for the period of April 2020 through July 2020. The full outlook can be located here.
|Number of Fires
|2020 (1/1/20 – 03/13/20)
|2009-2018 – Year-to-Date Average
|Percentage of 10-year Average
The table above indicates this season is well below average in number of fires and total acreage. Fires are likely to remain light in April. However, as fuels dry a normal transition into fire season is expected, particularly in the southwest and California.
Observations in March:
Fire activity in the past month remained low as most states were out of fire season. Because of this, most reports of wildfire activity occurred in the southern region across Florida and Oklahoma. It was a dry and warm for California at the start of the month. However, by mid-March changing weather patterns brought cool and wet conditions to many of the western states. Although, drought developed and expanded across the West. Oregon and California experienced abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions. Additionally, central portions of the Great Basin and the northwestern portion of the Northern Rockies experienced drier than average conditions.
Wildland Fire Outlook for April-July:
Throughout the Pacific northwest region, Normal significant large fire potential is expected through June, but will rise to Above Normal potential in July. Despite generally overall dry weather since this past fall, there is only a minimal risk of large, costly wildfires igniting through the middle of June.
Hawaii is expecting Normal significant large fire potential through the entirety of the outlook period.
In northern California, Normal Significant large fire potential will continue across the region through May. The beginning of last year’s rainy season had very low snow levels. Therefore, dry fuels and soils can be found under the blanket of the snowpack. This indicates that there will be even less beneficial runoff in the late spring and early summer, likely leading to an earlier date of critical fuel dryness at middle and high elevations. By June, lower elevation in the Northern Sierra, the Northwestern Mountains, and the Northeast will see Above Normal significant fire potential. While brief periods of cool and wet weather can still be expected in early June, warmer and drier conditions are slated for July. This will bring Above Normal potential for most of the region. Subsequently, new sparks are expected to occur more frequently than usual during the outlook period.
Normal significant large fire potential is expected in Southern California. However, from May through July, coastal areas and adjacent ranges will experience Below Normal significant large fire potential. The extremely wet conditions during the past few weeks have substantially alleviated the moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions across the area. As a result, dead and live fuel moistures values are above normal. As spring fades, the region will see below normal thunderstorm activities. This will result in less lightening caused fires over the mountains.
Across the Rockies, the outlook period predicts Normal significant large fire potential. Weather patterns forecast overall seasonal temperatures and conditions, with occasional warm, dry, and windy periods. However, southern portions of Colorado may see a possible earlier start to fire season in May due to drought and drier than average forecast conditions.
The south is forecast to have Normal to Below Normal significant large fire potential the next few months. Periods of high precipitation is forecast through the spring. Therefore, most of the region remains very moist and drought-free, despite the steady exception of drier conditions across southern Texas and Florida, Fire risks will continue to trend below average. However, dry conditions in Florida and Texas should be closely monitored.
See below for the Wildland Fire Potential Outlook over the next four months.