NIFC Predictive Services Wildland Fire Outlook March – June

The National Interagency Fire Center’s Predictive Services office details the potential effect of El Nino this Spring for all regions of the U.S.

Generally, California (with the exception of the extreme N/E corner) will see above average precipitation through April.
Arizona is wet and getting wetter through the Spring.
Washington and the Northwest can expect some easing of the drought.
West Texas, New Mexico can expect above average precipitation through April.

Year to date fire activity has been 42% of normal burning 26% of average acres.

What this means for the upcoming fire season.

Fuel moisture will be way up and some areas of the Sierra’s may stay green through the Summer. NIFC notes significant tree and brush damage and freeze-kill brush from heavier than normal snowfall will contribute to fuel loads.

For California NIFC predicts the potential for significant fire through June is normal. History contradicts this sentiment. Fewer acres burn in a Summer following an El Nino event. Unless driven by unusual or out of season wind events June and July should be quiet. We should see the inverse of 2008.

I don’t expect any significant wildfire activity in the state until the Santa Ana winds return to Southern California counties in the Fall.

If the drought pattern holds in the Northwest that is where the Summer action will take place.nifc

4 Comments

  • FirefighterBlog says:

    Great comment SmokeyBehr and thank you for it. Point taken on the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area considering the bark beetle dead stands.
    Sierra NF is nearing 150% of normal snowfall. Time will tell of course but I sense there will be very little overtime this season.

  • Smokey Behr says:

    Even though there's above average precipitation over most of California, it's not going to deeply mitigate the drought conditions that we've had over the last few years. If you look at the temperature forecast for June through August, You'll see that there's a wide swath of above normal and much above normal temps across most of the state. I predict that there will be quite a few large fires in the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area, and in the mountains above Palm Springs. The Sierra NF area is also due for a big one, as is the east side of the Coast range.

  • FirefighterBlog says:

    Great comment SmokeyBehr and thank you for it. Point taken on the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area considering the bark beetle dead stands.
    Sierra NF is nearing 150% of normal snowfall. Time will tell of course but I sense there will be very little overtime this season.

  • Smokey Behr says:

    Even though there's above average precipitation over most of California, it's not going to deeply mitigate the drought conditions that we've had over the last few years. If you look at the temperature forecast for June through August, You'll see that there's a wide swath of above normal and much above normal temps across most of the state. I predict that there will be quite a few large fires in the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area, and in the mountains above Palm Springs. The Sierra NF area is also due for a big one, as is the east side of the Coast range.

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Mike Morales

Retired Cal Fire/CDF Fire Captain

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