The ingredients line up for parts of Florida to be active for wildfires in 2023, despite two hurricanes making landfall in 2022 bringing torrential rains.
The recently released outlook from the National Interagency Fire Center shows the likelihood of above-normal wildfire potential developing in the new year along the Interstate 10 corridor and includes the northern peninsula and the coast. southwest in the spring.
The threat of active wildfires is also expected to expand north along the I-95 corridor and impact the coastal plains of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Around 80% of the country is experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions, but due to the long-term climate outlook, forecasters are able to focus on areas where the coming months do not look promising for drought relief. .
The Sunshine State is no stranger to droughts or the problems they cause.
Emergency Management reports that the state sees about 4,000 wildfires each year that destroy about 200,000 acres.
The drought is now spreading
Severe drought conditions currently exist across much of the Florida Panhandle and are expanding weekly.
During a severe drought, the US Drought Monitor reports that crop losses are likely, water shortages are common, and water restrictions are imposed.
Communities that experience these conditions include Pensacola, Panama City, and Tallahassee.
As the state enters its normally driest months, drought conditions will undoubtedly expand and include parts of the peninsula and neighboring southern states.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center has highlighted these areas to see further drought development through at least February 2023.
La Niña will make the situation worse
The world is currently experiencing a rare La Niña “triple dip”, which is expected to continue through 2023.
During a La Niña, periods of abnormally hot and dry conditions are common throughout the Deep South during winter and spring.
The combination of already dry conditions and an expected lack of precipitation is expected to exacerbate fire threat levels until a significant change in weather conditions allows for better precipitation opportunities in the southeast.
Residual impacts from Hurricane Ian
The Sunshine State experienced heavy rains during Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, but the rainfall occurred in brief periods and the entire state did not reap the benefits.
Tropical rainfall was just enough in some communities to bring rainfall gauges back to normal and prevent cities from experiencing drought conditions.
As evaporation continues and storms become a memory of the distant past, the National Interagency Fire Center fears the impacts on vegetation will play out during an active fire season.
“Several agencies have expressed concern that the salty fuels associated with historic Ian’s storm surge could easily burn at any time. For this reason and the likelihood of drought development this winter, the southwest Florida is included in above-normal potential for February and March,” the authors of the NIFC outlook wrote.
Tropical cyclones are known to have lasting impacts on fire weather in the Southeast.
Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida panhandle in 2018 and toppled millions of trees.
Dead vegetation, combined with drought conditions, provided the perfect storm for the rapid spread of wildfires in 2022.
Numerous large fires broke out between Pensacola and Tallahassee, and firefighters said they were struggling to control the flames due to dry brush.
Although the terrain where the most recent hurricanes have struck is different than the Panhandle, the lasting impacts of the storms will be something firefighters will be watching for throughout the fire season.
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