Wildfire Risk Forecast Discussion
Updated: April 22, 2009
Torrential moistens Alabama, Georgia, and North Florida, peninsula of Florida remains dry. The last week of March and first two weeks of April brought a shift in the large-scale weather patterns across the Southeast U.S., characterized by an active jet stream with frequent low pressure systems moving across the northern Gulf Coast. Several of these systems were slow-moving, allowing soaking rains and thunderstorms to dump heavy accumulations of rain over the two-week period across most of Georgia, Alabama, and North Florida. A large swath of the Florida Panhandle, South Alabama, and South Georgia received over 12 inches during these two weeks with a greater area seeing 6-8 inches. Saturated soils that will take weeks to dry and overflowing rivers and surface waters should provide a buffer against any developing drought in North Florida until the summer rains begin.
Unfortunately, these torrential rains failed to progress down the peninsula where the driest areas of the State are located. South of a diagonal line from Gainesville to St. Augustine, the peninsula received only 1-2 inches during the month of March and continued the string of months with below-normal rainfall. With winter rainfall deficits from 5 to 10 inches, drought continues to worsen across central and south Florida. Wildfire risk is also high in Central and South Florida, where the Keetch-Byram Drought Index is currently running from 600 to over 700, corresponding to extreme dryness. Fire potential is very high at right now from Gainesville to South Florida and increasing brushfire activity has been reported by the Florida Division of Forestry.
What does that mean for the remainder of the spring and into the summer?
Neutral conditions usually lead to summer climate patterns that are close to normal, meaning the afternoon thundershowers begin as normal in Late May/June and bring ample rainfall for Florida, while more spotty in Alabama and Georgia. Current dry conditions over peninsular Florida should keep KBDI values high in these areas until the summer rainy season begins.