Saturday, June 26, 2021

Low Fire Acreage So Far

The big story in the climate world this weekend is the outrageous heat wave currently affecting British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the lower 48 - and also far southeastern Alaska - but for today I'll highlight a bit of good news: Alaska fire acreage so far this season is surprisingly low.  As noted by Rick Thoman today, acres burned so far amount to only 60,000 - which is the lowest for the date since the exceptionally quiet year of 2008, when only 63,000 acres burned in the entire season.

Typically one-third of the season's fire acreage has accrued by this date, so it's becoming somewhat unlikely that we'll end up with an active season; there's a pretty good correlation between June 26 acreage and final acreage.  But let's not be hasty: fire activity can really take off in July, so the verdict isn't in yet.

I said the acreage is "surprisingly low" because lightning activity has been almost exactly normal so far, and temperatures have been above normal much of the time since spring, with a couple of notable warm spells this month (see below).  [Update July 6: this chart is not quite correct, see July 6 post for an update.]  It also hasn't been particularly wet, although my impression is that the thunderstorms that have occurred have been significant rain makers in localized areas.  So perhaps there has been less dry lightning than normal, and hence a reduced number of fire ignitions.


  1. NWS has mentioned wet thunderstorms in their forecasts when they were expected. Plus it seems least greater than in the 20's percent conducive to fires. Maybe a scan of relative humidity trends this Spring would inform?


    1. That was my thought exactly, Gary - taking a look at relative humidity would be a good next step to investigate this.

    2. It also seems vegetation in and around Fairbanks is enjoying a great year of growth. From the soil up there's an abundance of tall green. I don't recall a better year for plants and trees. The downside is the need to cut wild brush in our yard.