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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wildfire Outlook fot the 2011 Southern Region

The graphic below is a draft and will more than likely have a few minor changes in its final. I will post that as soon as its available

February – June 2011 Forecast for the Southern Area
Highest fire potential for the Southern Area for the entire outlook period will remain in our western and southeastern areas with western Texas and Oklahoma, the Central Gulf Coast, Florida, and southern Georgia especially seeing continued periods of high to very high fire potential through the entire period.   Ongoing trends for a drier than average precipitation pattern will also keep areas of the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia in higher fire threat in the coming months.
At this time we see no particular dry signal to suggest that Kentucky or Tennessee will see any abnormally high danger threat.
Specific fuel concerns and other areas of note:
- Texas:  Above normal fuel loading from last year’s growing season and current winter freezing conditions. In addition, since much of this increase has been across the higher populated I-35 corridor, any fire activity will present potential for the occurrence of “high value” fires with urban interface implications.
- Central Gulf Coast:  Water levels are abnormally low. At the Bogue Chitto NWR for example (northeast of Lake Pontchartrain), water levels usually as high as 18 feet are very low and now exposing previously underwater material.
- Southern Georgia/Florida: 
-- Widespread recurring freezing conditions since the beginning of winter has significantly increased dead fuel loading and has set the stage for an extremely volatile and high wildfire threat condition. This has increased the likelihood of spotting problems even when the humidities are in the 40’s and 50’s.  ERC-G indexes overall continue to trend well above average with the KBDI drought measures well above 500 with 600+ reported in many counties.
-- The water table at the Okefenokee NWR, GA is currently close to 10” below the level of the last significant fire outbreak.
-- In the Everglades, hammock soil moisture's are running below 82%; at levels below 82% the hammocks can not be relied upon as a barrier to fire spread.
-- Dead Redbay trees from beetle/fungus damage continues along the Georgia Coast and will add to dead fuel loading. 
-- Southern Arkansas: Ice damage from 2010 storms have amplified significant dead limb fuels adding about 6-12 tons per acre additional fuels in wooded areas.
The main factors influencing the fire potential for this outlook period are:
Precipitation: Continuation below average La Nina/Negative AO induced Winter/Early Spring precipitation events.
Drought Conditions: Agricultural and hydrologic drought is fairly widespread across the Southern Area with drought particularly persistent across the southern half of the Southern and of special concern for western half of Texas and deep southeastern Georgia and all of Florida.  

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