The National Interagency Fire Center published the wildfire outlook for the period of March 2024 through June 2024. This outlook is a synthesis of predictions from both Geographic Area Predictive Services units and the National Predictive Services and is crucial resource for wildland fire management. Several key factors influence the wildfire outlook, including weather patterns, fuel moisture levels, and long-term climate forecasts. The full wildfire outlook can be located here.

Overview of Fire Activity in February 2024

Periods of well above normal temperatures were common across the Plains, with multiple week-long warm spells during the month. With the warmer than average temperatures, winds increased at times as well, particularly across the High Plains. As a result, fuels dried out and several days of Red Flag Warnings we recorded across the region.  The month’s activity was highlighted by a February 25-26 fire outbreak across the central and southern Plains from Nebraska to Texas. Several new and significant fires began during this outbreak including the Betty’s Way Fire near North Platte, Nebraska and the Smokehouse Creek and Windy Deuce Fires in the Texas Panhandle. The complex that formed, became Texas’ largest in the state’s history.

Drought Conditions and Improvements

Drought improved in much of the Lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys, with drought removal across much of the area. Drought also improved across portions of the Southwest and eastern Montana. However, drought worsened in northern Idaho and Montana west of the Continental Divide, with drought developing and intensifying across the Upper Mississippi Valley and northern Great Lakes. An area of abnormally dry conditions has developed across eastern North Carolina due to dry conditions the past two months. California remains drought free, but drought persists on the Big Island of Hawai’i with much of Hawai’i abnormally dry as well. Drought persists across Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands but has improved the past month. Drought will persist across the Southwest and is forecast to develop across southwest Texas. Drought is also expected to develop where it does not yet exist from portions of Washington eastward into northern Michigan.

US Monthly Drought Outlook as of Feb. 29th, 2024

Wildfire Outlook for Spring 2024

Looking ahead to Spring 2024, due to worsening drought conditions the Southern Plains, Panhandle of Texas, and Great Lakes are forecasted to face above-normal significant fire potential into April. Similar predictions hold for the Dakotas and Southern Missouri in March and April. The Southern Area of the U.S. is expected to see a spread of below-normal significant fire potential across various regions, including the northeast Gulf Coast and Florida in March, extending into parts of Louisiana, Texas, the Carolinas, and Virginia. While much of this coastal areas will continue to experience below-normal potential in April, the rest return to normal fire potential. The wildfire outlook for May and June will bring normal fire potential to most of the country with the Southwest region always at the forefront in late spring and early summer. California’s winter rains and snowpack levels will delay fire season there. A return to ENSO neutral conditions quickly leading back to a La Nina conditions by this summer leave a lot of uncertainty in the implications across the country.

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