What Will the Wind Blow in (In Terms of Fire)?

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Wildfire Predictions for Early 2016

From the start of the holiday season through the beginning of Spring, the potential for significant wildland fire activity throughout the United States is usually pretty low. Areas like the southeast would typically see the most wildland fire activity during these months, but due to unique weather conditions, the chance for significant natural fires is greatly decreased in the opening months of 2016.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the predictions for wildland fires from now through March 2016.

Monthly Forecasts

January 2016

January looks to be a quiet month as far as wildland fires are concerned. The National Interagency Fire Center predicts normal fire potential across most of the United States, and below normal fire potential in the Southeastern U.S. and Puerto Rico.

February and March 2016

Wildland fire fighters will have to raise their alert levels a bit once the first month of the year passes. Above normal fire potential will develop in the central interior portion of the United States (portions of states like Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky are affected). The Southeastern U.S. and Puerto Rico will still have below normal fire potential, and the rest of the U.S. will have normal significant fire potential.

El Nino to Continue

El Nino, with its warmer than normal conditions throughout the United States, is expected to stick around through March 2016. Temperatures that are above normal will persist in places like Alaska, along with northern, eastern, and western regions of the country. Florida is expected to maintain temperatures above normal through the end of 2015, but then dip to lower-than-normal temps through March. Other southern states will also experience lower temperatures in the spring months.

El Nino isn’t all good when it comes to wildland fires. The mild temperatures and extra moisture that come with the weather pattern will mean fine fuel crops will grow earlier, leading to an earlier season for wildfires in places where they are abundant. Grass crops are especially concerning.

Special Areas of Interest

The way the weather operates in certain areas of the country in the next few months may predict the amount of wildland fire activity (or lack thereof) that occurs. Some particular areas to watch include:


With the days being shorter, and the sun’s angle low, the chance for wildland fire ignition in Alaska from now through March 2016 is very slim. Even with predictions for warmer-than-normal temperatures in the first quarter of 2016, there will be plenty of precipitation.

Northern Rockies

Medium and long-term weather models are showing dry conditions in this area that may even see drought-like conditions during the period in Northwest Montana and near the Idaho Panhandle. Snowy conditions in January and February may end up working positively when it comes to wildland fire prevention.


In November 2015, more than 90 percent of Hawaii had above-normal precipitation. Still, forecasters believe that El Nino conditions will mean elevation to above-normal significant potential for wildland fires by mid-January.

Southern California

There are certainly some dry areas, specifically near Santa Barbara County and south, that could be cause for wildland fire concern as the year begins but overall, plenty of precipitation in the area has led to normal wildfire potential. El Nino’s effect in the Eastern Pacific is expected to have peaked by the end of December, leading to safer wildfire conditions.

Great Basin

The official prediction for this area of the country that includes Idaho is for normal fire potential. Drier than normal weather conditions could lead to some issues where wildfires are concerned though.

Only time will tell for sure what the wildland fire reality will be in the next few months, but El Nino and its lasting effects are certain to play a deciding role.

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