Wildfire Outlook: July 2020 – Oct 2020

Below are summaries from the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, provided by the National Interagency Fire Center, for the period of July 2020 through October 2020. The full outlook can be located here.

Statistics Year-To-Date:

Year-to-date statistics Number of Fires Acreage Burned
2020 (01/01/20 – 07/01/20) 24,349 1,431,958
2010-2019 – Year-to-Date Average 27,323 2,065,523
Percentage of 10-year Average 89.11% 69.32%

Source: https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm

The table above indicates this season is well below average in number of fires and total acreage. Fires are likely to continue to pick up through midsummer in most places.

Observations in June:

A significant increase in fire activity was observed in June as fine fuels became critically dry, and regions experienced hot and windy conditions. Precipitation was below average in June across most of the country except across the Pacific Northwest. Areas of concern emerged across California and the Great Basin,  where less than 5% of monthly precipitation was received.
June was a very dry month across a majority of the country as many areas received less than 50% of normal precipitation. Among the hardest hit areas were the Southwest, Southern Great Basin, New England, and West Texas. These areas generally received less than 25% of average precipitation for the month. Early loss of snowpack across the High Sierra and Southern Cascades should have a significant impact on high elevation, timber fires by allowing for the large fuels to become receptive by mid-July. Drought continued to slowly intensify and expand across the Great Basin and Central Rockies in June.

Wildland Fire Outlook for July-October:

Mid-Summer

July is the entry point into the core of the Western Fire Season. As the season sequentially expands west and north across California, the Great Basin and the Central Rockies into the Northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, it will encounter areas of intensifying and expanding drought. This will lead to Above Normal significant large fire potential across large portions of the Great Basin and Northern California that will expand further north into the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies in August and September. The elevated potential in southwestern areas will begin to diminish with the arrival of the monsoon in early July.

September/October

Activity will linger into mid-September in northern areas until the seasonal transition begins and begins to bring the season to a close. In Alaska, significant large fire activity will become less frequent in late July as returning moisture events gradually reduce the fire potential.

October will mark the beginning of a period of activity for Southern California as the fall wind season begins. With a transition to a La Niña episode expected, drier than average conditions are forecasted to occur. The factors that favor the development of Foehn wind events may be more frequent in occurrence. Given the heavy loading of fine fuels, this is a concern.

See below for the Wildland Fire Potential Outlook maps and concerns over the next four months.


July 2020 Map

National Wildfire Potential for July

August 2020 Map

National Wildfire Potential for August

September 2020 Map

National Wildfire Potential for September

October 2020 Map

National Wildfire Potential for October

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