Ides of March–tidings of an early start to 2015 fire season

Capture-rickLate last year, Rick Thoman, NWS Climate Scientist in Fairbanks, predicted a warm winter for most of Alaska at his December 2014 NWS Webinar.  That forecast worked out pretty well, with Dec-Jan-Feb temperatures well above normal for that period all over the state! So what does he say now about the upcoming spring and start of Alaska fire season? At a March 19 forecast briefing for fire managers, Rick pointed out benefits of the newer “dynamic” climate models which continuously update their algorithms with the latest weather observations.  This kind of modeling requires major computing power so it’s only become

View Rick’s recorded monthly climate webinars posted on ACCAP’s website: https://accap.uaf.edu/?q=NWS_Briefings

possible in the last decade or so with availability of supercomputing centers.  The collection of multi-model ensembles he showed universally point to a warm or VERY WARM April (goodbye snow pack!) and that seems to extend out to the April-May-June outlook as well, with pretty good confidence.  One moderating influence in the forecast comes from mid-range precipitation outlooks from two independent forecast tools which call for above-normal precipitation, especially in the eastern Interior.  The missing link that fire managers would like to be able to forecast is convection (lightning), but Rick says that may be coming as climate modelers gain experience with the new dynamic models.  AICC Predictive Services has now posted their seasonal outlook for the 2015 Fire Season on the web, where you can learn about Modoki El Niño and what that may mean for fire season!Capture-cpc

 

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What is the Weather Outlook for Early Season 2015?

Rick Thoman, NWS Climate Scientist in Fairbanks, said “Save this one!” when he showed this slide about the CPC’s spring temperature prediction in his Dec. 19 NWS Webinar.  So I did:  it’s a pretty bold forecast for a warmer than normal early spring in much of Alaska.  Of course, it’s still hard to know what that might mean for fire season.  We know that warmer springs can be associated with premature disappearance of snow and higher fire danger in that pre-greenup season though.  On the other hand, well-timed spring rain, after the ground thaws enough to receive it, can just as easily put a damper on duff fuel moistures well into the summer.  And, it’s a lot easier to predict temperature than precipitation.  Still, when I hear the starting line-up:  PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) in a warm phase, a fairly robust El Niño, and warm early spring–I can’t help but think that it could be an interesting year.  It looks like Southcentral Alaska may be in the cross-hairs again too.  Check out the latest seasonal outlooks as the season progresses at CPC’s website.

December 18th NWS prediction for spring temperature/precip in Alaska.  See the latest at www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/90day/

December 18th Climate Prediction Center Forecast for spring temperature/precip in Alaska. See the latest at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/90day/