An elevated risk of large wildfires is expected to develop in parts of the West through spring and summer.
Nick Nauslar, meteorologist at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, said he expects an above-normal risk of significant wildfires — defined as consuming total acreage above long-term medians — in parts of California and into the east side of the Pacific Northwest starting in June and increasing by July.
The highest Northwest risk during that period likely will be in Central Oregon east of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia Basin of Oregon and Washington.
Nauslar said he expects normal fire activity through July in Idaho, where “there is nothing we see to push us to above-normal activity."
However, he said, "It doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”
In the the April 1 National Significant Wildfire Potential Outlook for April through July, he wrote that climate outlooks indicate warmer- and drier-than-normal conditions are likely for much of the Plains and Intermountain West through spring and into early summer, “continuing and exacerbating drought there.”
Drought “continues for much of the West, with large swaths of extreme to exceptional drought in the Southwest, Great Basin and on the West Slope” of the Rocky Mountains,” Nauslar wrote. Drought likely will persist, if not worsen, across much of the West.
He said the risk of significant wildfires likely will be above normal in parts of the Northern Rockies into early May, but nearly normal for rest of the outlook period. Risk of large fires likely will increase in the Great Basin in June and July due to a below-normal snowpack and significant long-term drought.
Northern California’s risk of large fires is forecast to be normal through June, and above normal by July at higher elevations. Southern California risk likely will be normal through July, and then above normal away from the deserts and the San Joaquin Valley in July.