Ag Weather Forum

A Look at Wildfire Potential

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Ongoing dryness and expected warm conditions during March have the Central and Southern Plains and much of the southeastern U.S. in line for above-normal risk of significant wildland fire outbreaks. (National Interagency Fire Center graphic)

As we move into the 2022 meteorological spring, the effect of dry and warm conditions is becoming more prominent in the wildfire threat outlook. It's already big and is likely to spread further.

The National Interagency Fire Center, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, has identified practically the entire Central and Southern Plains, from the Nebraska-South Dakota line south to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas; and the coastal southeastern United States, including South Carolina, Georgia and Florida; as having an above-normal risk for significant wildfire outbreak during March. A portion of southern New Mexico is also included in this above-normal risk assessment.

Here's how the Fire Center described the expected fire threat in the Plains:

"Much of the Central and Southern Plains are expected to have above-normal significant fire potential into April, while persisting on the High Plains and eastern slopes of the Front Range into June. Above-normal potential is forecast in portions of south Texas and the Hill Country during March, with the westward retreat of above-normal potential in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas following the expected green-up procession ... Additionally, there are indications for an active severe weather pattern this spring from eastern portions of the Plains into the Southeast and Ohio Valley. Critically dry and windy periods will accompany the severe weather for much of the Plains, especially the southern and central High Plains."

In the southeastern U.S., "Above-normal significant fire potential is forecast to expand across Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas during March and April, with lingering above normal potential forecast to remain in Florida during May," according to the Fire Center.

Going further into spring, the Fire Center has a mixed tone in its expectations for fire threats in the northwestern U.S. "Climate outlooks through spring indicate areas receiving below-normal precipitation will likely expand generally south to north across the West, with below-normal temperatures likely continuing across the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies," the agency noted. But for much of the western U.S., multi-year drought leads to a threatening summer for wildfires.

"Most of the Southwest is forecast to have above-normal significant fire potential in May and June, with potential increasing across southern and western Colorado and southern portions of the Great Basin. Central Oregon is likely to have above-normal significant fire potential in May and June, with above-normal potential forecast across much of coastal California by June," said the Fire Center.

In 2021, the Fire Center recorded 58,985 wildfires, which burned a total of 7,125,643 acres. The records for these two statistics are: 96,385 wildfires in 2006 and 10,125,149 acres burned in 2015.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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