For the Pacific Northwest, long-range outlooks suggest fire danger will rise to be above average during the summer, particularly west of the Cascades where outlooks suggest a warmer than average summer, the National Interagency Fire Center said last week.

“Fire season will likely begin sooner than average in June for areas west of the Cascades and then spread southward in July and August. Areas across northern Washington also appear at risk for more large fires than usual due to persistent dryness,” said the Fire Center’s “National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook.”

“Fire activity has been minimal in April and will likely continue to be so in early May. However, if drying continues due to warmth in May, western Washington appears to be at risk for possible burn escapes during dry, windy conditions.

“Large fire risk is expected to become higher than average and spread to Oregon and central Washington as the summer progresses.”

Latest sea surface temperature anomalies across the equatorial Pacific Ocean indicate that the weak El Niño has reached nearly a steady state and remains at its muted peak. Latest model forecasts show almost no change from the previous months’ forecasts. Latest consensus of model data suggests that the El Niño will persist in a weak state through the summer months and into the fall before weakening into a neutral but positive state, says the Fire Center.

After a dry March, April became much wetter as Pacific weather fronts moved into the region bringing ample moisture through much of the month. Rainfall totals were well above average for most of the Northwest, except sections of western Washington and northwestern Oregon.

Snow continued to accumulate at higher elevations, particularly in Oregon where snow accumulation remains above average for late April. Snowfall accumulation in Washington is below average.

Outlooks through spring and into summer continue to indicate warmer than average conditions for the region. Precipitation is most likely to remain below average west of the Cascades but is more likely to be above average east of the Cascades during late spring and summer months.

The wet weather in April moderated fire danger indices west of the Cascades that had been climbing due to the dry weather observed in March.

Currently, fire danger indices are now too low for risk of large, naturally ignited wildfires over the region. However, human-caused fire activity in populated areas may become possible during dry, windy conditions in May or June.

Long-range outlooks suggest fire danger will rise to be above average in during the summer, particularly west of the Cascades where outlooks suggest a warmer than average summer. Fire season will likely begin sooner than average in June for areas west of the Cascades and then spread southward in July and August. Areas across northern Washington also appear at risk for more large fires than usual due to persistent dryness.

Fire activity has been minimal in April and will likely continue to be so in early May. However, if drying continues due to warmth in May, western Washington appears to be at risk for possible burn escapes during dry, windy conditions. Large fire risk is expected to become higher than average and spread to Oregon and central Washington as the summer progresses.

For the complete fire outlook (and charts) go to https://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/monthly_seasonal_outlook.pdf.

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