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Outlook Period – November, December and January through February 2017
The significant wildland fire potential forecasts included in this outlook represent the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services units and the National Predictive Services unit.
November significant wildland fire potential is generally very minimal throughout the northern tier of the U.S. as conditions transition out of normal fire season. Areas of the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains that are currently seeing increased levels of fire activity are likely to see much of that activity diminish and transition to out of season conditions through early November.
Exceptions will continue in Southern California where long term drought is still in place. Conditions in this area will slowly transition to normal from north to south through the Outlook period. Normal implies a significant reduction in fire activity, but some fires should still be expected. Also, the southeastern U.S. will continue to see a large area of above normal significant fire potential for November and December that will slowly transition back to normal through the Outlook period as well. This condition is also largely due to long term drought that is going to be exacerbated by dry leaf litter falling on top of already dry fuels and also occasional dry and windy periods. For the southern Plains there is a plentiful grass crop that presents the potential for occasional dry and windy periods to increase fire activity.
Normal winter conditions will prevail across the U.S. in January and February. There will be occasional periods of increased fire activity, but these will be infrequent and difficult to predict accurately. During this outlook period winter precipitation and snowpack development will be a critical situation to monitor as the 2017 fire season becomes the focus of many fire managers.
Long term drought conditions: dominant across parts of CA & the SE states
For Southern California this means that fuels continue to pose a threat for initial attack and occasional significant fire activity. Even though drought is likely to remain in place, fire activity will reduce significantly through the winter. This will however, likely establish the baseline for entering another fire season in a dry condition and fuels may become a concern earlier than usual in 2017.
Across the Southeastern states drought is also the primary concern. This concern will be exacerbated by leaf drop occurring on top of already dry fuels, creating a condition where dry surface and sub- surface fuels have an added layer of dry fuels in the short term. This condition should improve moving through the winter but in the short term, elevated levels of initial attack and significant fire activity should be expected across the south
Southern California saw no long term change in fuel moisture resulting from the rainfall. At the current time, fuel moisture readings are close to record low readings in dead fuels in both heavy and light fuels across Southern California. Live fuel moisture is critically low over most of Southern California away from the coast. Fuel moisture conditions will likely remain extremely dry until the first widespread heavy rain occurs in the fall.
Southern Area: An area of above normal significant fire potential will persist in November across much of the Southern Area. This above normal region will return to normal through December and be normal in January and February.
Severe to exceptional drought now covers most of the central Gulf States with the worst conditions remaining across Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and the western Carolinas. Drought conditions continue to spread toward eastern Texas. Fuel moisture conditions across all classes remained dry with 100 hour fuels now in the 10th to 20th percentile in areas of Alabama and Georgia with 1000 hour moistures over a broader area covering Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee less than the 10th percentile. While the Atlantic and southern Plains states of the Area are faring better, fine and smaller class fuels continue to dry. Existing moist conditions across Puerto Rico are expected to continue with frequent rain events.
Recent trends indicate a drier-than-normal pattern will persist through the fall. Expect the broadening drought from below average rainfall and periods of post cold frontal low humidity to produce high to critical periods of above average fire potential during November across the central and southern States and the Mid-Appalachians area. Gustier wind events associated with frontal passages will increase and accentuate risk for larger fire potential as the main timeframe for leaf drop and peak fine fuel loading develops. Expect minimal fire risks for Puerto Rico. Dry line activity and warm temperatures anticipated
The GACC websites can also be accessed through the NICC webpage at: http://www.nifc.gov/nicc/predictive/outlooks/outlooks.htm