June 1st National Wildland Fire Potential

I am a little late forwarding out the current National Wildland Fire Potential.  I’ll be sharing this through the fire season until we get our season ending event.

This is as we would expect given our dry spring and spreading drought.  The good news is that we in the North Fork are in a better position than most of the West.  That is not much consolation since the outlook across the West is grim.  Specifically for the Northern Rockies, here are some excerpts:

More than 87% of the western region is in drought with over half the region in extreme to exceptional drought. This represents the most expansive and intense drought for the West this century according to the US Drought Monitor and Steve Bowen. Drought continues to intensify in California and parts of the Pacific Northwest while persisting in the Great Basin and Southwest except for a small reduction in northeast New Mexico. Drought expanded in the Great Lakes and Carolinas but improved across much of Texas.  

Northern Rockies: Significant wildland fire potential for the Northern Rockies Geographical Area is expected to be normal in June and again in September. However, during the month of July above normal fire potential is anticipated to develop west of the Continental Divide and expand eastward to include all of the geographic area in August.

Although the recent short-term weather delivered some significant relief and encouraged green-up of fuels in the Northern Rockies, there is still a persistent underlying drought concern over the longer term. The monthly and three-month seasonal temperature and precipitation outlooks from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center for June through September suggest a trend of warmer and drier than average conditions developing across the geographic area for the “core” fire season months, particularly along and west of the Continental Divide in Idaho and southwest Montana. One of the most significant factors in these outlooks is the current transition to ENSO neutral and there is somewhat more confidence in the outlooks given that the spring predictability barrier is nearly behind us. A combination of greening-up fuels and the transient benefits of recent precipitation are expected to mitigate fire potential somewhat in June but in early July, fire potential is anticipated to be elevated above normal for the PSAs west of the Continental Divide based on the most recent outlooks and antecedent conditions from winter and spring.  

There has been consistency with the model forecasts for the ENSO outlook in bringing about a secondary La Niña period late this summer or fall. It is reflected in the September outlooks with less of a signal toward warmer and drier. Thus, the expectation is for something closer to normal fire potential in September.  

Basically for us the forecast indicates a fire season that will begin in earnest in July and be above average in August, returning to normal in September.  Complicating this forecast for us is that August is forecasted to be a very active month across the West – which will certainly limit resources available for the Northern Rockies and the North Fork.

By the time the reports for July and August are available, we’ll have a bit better idea of the extent and duration of the predicted fire season.  As always, we’ll be able to tell you precisely what kind of fire season we will have in 2021 sometime in November or December.