Spring Wildfire Danger Outlook is Bad News For Florida, Southwest and Southern Plains

Published in 3 March, 2021

At a Glance

  • Portions of the Southern Plains and Southwest will see an above-average wildland fire danger much of spring.

  • Florida could see its potential for significant wildland fires increase by April or May.

Drier-than-average conditions are fueling wildfire concerns in parts of the nation’s southern tier as we head deeper into spring.

The Southern Plains, Southwest and Florida have a higher than usual chance for significant wildland fires over the next few months, according to an outlook from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

In March and April, the outlook calls for an above average chance of significant wildland fire activity in parts of the Southwest and Southern Plains. Areas from the Southeast into the Ohio Valley and the central Appalachians have a lower than average potential for wildland fire.

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Areas in red have an above-average risk of significant wildland fire activity, while areas in green have a below-average risk for March.

(National Interagency Fire Center)

Widespread drought, or the expected development of drought, in portions of the Southern Plains and Southwest is one ingredient fueling the potential for increased wildfire danger in those regions. This means vegetation will be tinder dry before the spring green-up begins.

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The current drought status as of Feb. 23, 2021, shows much of the western U.S. and Plains at least drier than average (yellow contour), if not in drought (progressively darker tan, red and brown contours)

(USDA/NDMC/NOAA)

Periods of stronger winds commonly found in those regions during spring only add to the heightened fire potential. The winds can quickly spread fires when they ignite.

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Areas in red have an above-average risk of significant wildland fire activity in April.

(National Interagency Fire Center)

The persistence of La Niña’s influence into spring is another reason for the increased wildfire potential.

“La Niña will continue to significantly impact weather and climate patterns into spring with warmer and drier than normal conditions forecast across the southern tier of the U.S., especially the Southwest and southern High Plains,” the NIFC said.

Florida’s potential for significant wildland fire activity will grow by May, although some areas in the state could see the worsening conditions develop as early as April.

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An outlook from NOAA says that drought development is likely through spring in parts of the state’s peninsula, which would worsen the wildfire danger.

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Areas in red have an above-average risk of significant wildland fire activity in May.

(National Interagency Fire Center)

Florida’s fire danger typically decreases once the summer rainy season kicks into gear during June. However, the potential for above-normal fire danger could persist in the state’s panhandle region for at least a portion of the month, the NIFC says.

The wildland fire danger will also continue to be higher than average in the Southwest as we head into June. The month is typically one of the hottest and driest of the year in the region since it’s prior to the ramp-up of the summertime monsoon thunderstorm season.

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