National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services Issued: January 1, 2012 Next Issue: February 1, 2012
Wildland Fire Outlook – January 2012 through April 2012 The January 2012 through April 2012 significant fire potential outlooks are shown below. The primary factors influencing these outlooks are: •
La Niña: La Niña conditions will continue over the tropical Pacific and typical weather patterns will return to the US after intraseasonal circulations disrupted the classic La Niña patterns over North America in December. Drought: Significantly above normal precipitation fell in December over parts of the front range of the southern Rockies, the central Plains and the Ohio Valley. Parts of central and west Texas, southwest New Mexico and southern Arizona also received above normal precipitation. Much of the West, the central and southern Rockies, the northern Plains and Florida received less than 50 percent of normal precipitation for the month.
Fuel Dryness: Fuel conditions continue to improve across most of the U.S. As winter progresses and La Niña returns the northern tier of the country will see fuel conditions that are not conducive to significant fires. The far southern portions of the country, however, will begin to experience drier and warmer periods as La Niña sets in. Even though these will not be as strong as last year, expect fuels conditions to dry significantly and support significant fires across the Southwest and the far Southeast.
Note: Significant fire potential is defined as the likelihood that a wildland fire event will require mobilization of additional resources from outside the area in which the fire situation originates.
Past Weather and Drought Intraseasonal circulations over the tropical Pacific disrupted typical La NiĂąa patterns over North America in December, bringing precipitation to much of the Southwest and the central and southern Plains while keeping much of the Great Basin, the Northwest and the northern and central Rockies very dry. Anomalous high pressure across the Northwest allowed troughs to swing across the southern US. Several snow and rain events across Arizona, the southern and central Plains and the Ohio Valley brought precipitation of 150 to 300 percent of normal to those regions. The New MexicoColorado-Kansas-Texas Panhandle region received over 400 percent of normal precipitation. Meanwhile, most of the West, including the southern and central Rockies and the trans-Pecos region of Texas, received less than 25 percent of normal precipitation. Much of Minnesota and Florida were also below normal. Long term drought remained over most of the south central and southwestern states as well as Georgia. Short term drought worsened over Minnesota, the eastern Dakotas and northern Iowa. December temperatures were split from the Northwest to the central Gulf states â€“ two to six degrees cooler in the West, two to six degrees warmer in the East with as much as much as 10 degrees below normal in the southern Rockies and 10 degrees above in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Departure from Normal Temperature (top) and Percent of Normal Precipitation (bottom) (from High Plains Regional Climate Center)
U.S. Drought Monitor (top) and Drought Outlook (bottom) (from National Drought Mitigation Center and the Climate Prediction Center)
Weather and Climate Outlooks As intraseasonal disturbances (i.e., Madden-Julian oscillations) weaken, typical La NiĂąa patterns are expected to return to the U.S. January temperatures are expected to be below normal for much of the West, including most of Alaska, and the Northern Rockies while above normal temperatures are expected for most of the eastern half of the US. January precipitation is expected to be above normal for the Northwest and the Northern Rockies. Above normal conditions are also expected for the Great Lakes region, the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, and the upper and mid-Mississippi Valley. Below normal precipitation is expected across most of the southern third of the country from California to the mid-Atlantic coast. In Alaska, the west and central interior are expected to see above normal precipitation while the southern coast will see below normal conditions. Temperatures for February to April are expected to be below normal along the West coast, the Northwest, the Northern Rockies, the northern Plains and southern Alaska. Above normal temperatures are expected for the south central and most of the eastern US. Precipitation is expected to be above normal for the Northwest and northern Rockies, the Midwest and upper and mid-Mississippi Valley. Below normal precipitation is expected across much of the southern third of the country as well as the southern Alaska coast. Top row: One-month (January) outlook for temperature (left) and precipitation (right). Bottom row: Three month (FebruaryApril) outlook for temperatures (left) and precipitation (right). (from Climate Prediction Center/NOAA)
Feb â€“ Apr 2012
Area Discussions Alaska: Alaska is out of fire season. Expect normal conditions for Alaska for January through April. The first three weeks of December were warmer than normal across Alaska. A series of intense storms brought very strong and warm winds to much of the state. Most moisture was deposited along the south and west coasts. By the end of the month, the pattern changed to more normal temperatures and drier conditions across most of the state. Colder than normal temperatures are expected for the southern half of the state through early spring with a mix of very cold and dry events followed by very warm and wet periods. Southwest: Normal significant fire potential is expected in January. A cool and wet December, coupled with the seasonal low probability of human caused fires, has briefly mitigated the fire threat for the area and these effects will carryover through the month. Above normal significant fire potential is expected for West Texas, the southeastern half of New Mexico and the far southeastern corner of Arizona for February through April. Normal significant fire potential is expected elsewhere. The recent wet period did little to moderate the long-term drought conditions across much of the area, especially in the south and east. Sufficient carryover fuels remain from last year across the eastern half to two-thirds of the area, though some compaction has occurred from recent snows and there is less continuity than a year ago. As the weather pattern shifts to one more typical of La Ni単a for the remainder of winter, expect a return to above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation to the area, particularly across the south and east. An increasing trend toward more critical westerly wind events will escalate significant fire potential to above normal across mainly the grassland areas of West Texas, southeastern New Mexico and far southeastern Arizona. Northern Rockies: Normal significant fire potential is expected through April, 2012. December temperatures were above normal and precipitation below normal, leaving a below normal snowpack so far this winter. Expected changes in the pattern should bring a more typical La Ni単a winter with above average snowpack and a delay in the onset of fire season. While significant fire activity is rare during the late winter and early spring, there is a slight chance of grass fire activity in the pre-greenup environment across eastern Montana and western North Dakota in late April. However, this would still be considered normal. Western Great Basin: Normal significant fire potential is expected for January through April. Lower elevation grasses across much of the state remain relatively dry. These could still carry fire if an ignition occurred, especially in windy and dry pre-frontal conditions. However, colder and more humid conditions expected in January will likely increase fuel moisture and decrease ERCs, keeping the threat of fire activity very low. The US Drought Outlook shows that drought is likely to develop along the western borders of the state by early spring. This is reasonable in a La Ni単a scenario where the southern half of Nevada typically receives below normal precipitation. Eastern Great Basin: Normal significant fire potential is expected through April. Fall and early winter were dry for all but the southern third of the region and temperatures were generally cooler than normal. More typical patterns are expected in January that will bring strong, wetter systems across the region, especially the north. Significant fire is not an issue in the winter and early spring but snowfall patterns during this period will have an impact on the 2012 fire season. Northwest: Normal significant fire potential is expected through April. The jet stream generally remained north of the area the past month and a predominantly northwesterly flow kept cool high pressure locked-in over the Pacific Northwest. December temperatures were much cooler than normal. Precipitation was also below normal with only the last week of the month beginning to see a return of rainfall and snow accumulation. Nonetheless, snowpack remains considerably less than typically observed this time of year.
Despite the dry conditions the past two to three months, fire danger indices remain well below what is needed to sustain a risk of large wildfires. With a return of more typical La Ni単a patterns, conditions across the Northwest are expected to become cooler and wetter than normal for the winter and early spring. Fire danger is unlikely to rise significantly until midsummer of 2012. Northern California and Hawaii: Normal significant fire potential is expected for northern California for January through April. A near record dry December has dropped dead fuel moisture to record dryness levels in many areas, triggering an unusual increase in fire activity. The dry pattern is expected to continue the first 10 to 14 days of January for all but the areas north of Redding. Significant wind events during this period could increase fire activity to above normal for this time of year but the chance for a significant fire remains low. A shift to wetter weather is expected by midJanuary and will likely continue through April, particularly across the northern half of the area. The Hawaiian Islands still have lingering drought in some areas but significant precipitation in December has moderated conditions, especially for the Big Island. The northern islands did not receive as much rain but enough occurred overall to reduce fire activity. This pattern will likely continue so normal significant fire potential is expected through April. Southern California: Normal significant fire potential is expected for southern California through April. A cooler but much drier than normal December kept dead fuel moistures low but provided little potential for significant fires. Low humidity and occasional offshore flow situations could cause a brief increase in fire activity but fires are expected to remain relatively small. Cooler but drier than normal weather conditions will likely continue through early spring but should not contribute to any significant fire activity. Rocky Mountain: Normal significant fire potential is forecast over the Rocky Mountain Area through April. An active weather pattern is anticipated to continue in early January, bringing more precipitation events. Long range outlooks suggest above normal precipitation will occur across western Wyoming and northwest Colorado in January and will spread into central Wyoming for the February to April period while southeastern Colorado, western Kansas and southern Nebraska experience a drier than normal pattern. Eastern Area: Above normal significant fire potential is expected for western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa in January. Below normal significant fire potential is expected from the midMississippi Valley across much of the Ohio Valley to the New Jersey-Maryland shores. Continuing drought conditions and lack of snowpack around the western Great Lakes have kept grasses exposed and receptive to fire ignitions. Fire potential will decrease later in the winter as snowpack conditions improve with mid to late winter snows. Across the southern third of the area, much above normal precipitation is expected to continue through January, keeping fire potential low through the month. Snowfall is expected to increase around the western Great Lakes region by mid to late winter but droughts conditions will persist. Significant fire potential will return to normal during the late winter but will again be on the rise heading into the early spring fire season. Continuing above normal precipitation in the southern third of the area will keep below normal significant fire potential going through April. Southern Area: Significant fire potential for January will be below normal from eastern Oklahoma and northeast Texas through the mid and lower Mississippi Valley to the Tennessee Valley and northwestern Virginia. Above normal significant fire potential is expected for central and far northeast Florida, coastal Georgia and the southern tip of South Carolina. Above normal precipitation associated with an active December storm track across the south central US brought much needed rain to the southern Plains and the mid-Mississippi Valley. While long term drought conditions continue, short term conditions will keep fire potential below normal through January. In the far Southeast, continuing precipitation deficits along the lower Southeast coast will keep fire potential elevated through January.
A progressive weather pattern is expected to keep wet storms moving through the lower and midMississippi and Tennessee Valleys through the winter and early spring, prolonging and expanding the below normal significant fire potential area. Meanwhile, ongoing drought across the deep Southeast will keep below normal fire conditions across central Florida and the Georgia and southern South Carolina coasts while increasing the potential for above normal conditions to the rest of Florida and southern Georgia.
Historic and Predicted Wildland Fires and Acres Burned Data Based on data reported year-to-date in 2011, nationally there were 90 percent of the average numbers of fires burning approximately 130 percent of the average acres. Nationally, as of November 30, the 10 year average number of fires is 73,435 and the 10 year average acres burned is 6,401,680. The following table displays 10 year historical, current and predicted information pertaining to fire statistics. DEC 31, 2011 Reported Year-To-Date
Average reported for JAN
Projection for January YTD+Forecast
Average Reported YTD JAN 31
Historical Low YTD JAN 31
Year of Low
Historical High YTD JAN 31
Year of High
ALASKA Fires Acres
0 43 NORTHWEST 0 1 1 1 NORTH OPS 12 14 279 279 SOUTH OPS 25 40 745 945 NORTHERN ROCKIES 1 0 78 78 EAST BASIN 1 1 0 0 WEST BASIN 1 1 8 8 SOUTHWEST 40 26 11,718 6,893 ROCKY MOUNTAIN 10 10 3,442 2,648 EASTERN AREA 53 53 1,174 1,174 SOUTHERN AREA 2,498 1,665 57,625 44,327 NATIONALLY 2,640 1,812 75,070 56,396
Table above is preliminary. Final figures will be updated mid- month. Prepared January 3, 2012 by the National Interagency Coordination Center Predictive Services Staff. The information above was obtained primarily from Incident Management Situation Reports from 2002-2012, however some inaccuracies and inconsistencies have been corrected. Therefore, the data may not reflect other historic records and should not be considered for official statistical purposes. Note: This national outlook and some geographic area assessments are currently available at the NICC and GACC websites. The GACC websites can also be accessed though the NICC webpage at: http://www.nifc.gov/nicc/predictive/outlooks/outlooks.htm