Fire Weather Outlook

January – March, 2015

Updated January 6, 2015

Recent Conditions

Fall 2014 started out relatively dry for the state of Florida, but has rebounded back with above normal precipitation for most of the state. As fall progressed, the jet stream began to dip down further south and allowed frontal systems to pass through which brought increased precipitation throughout the state. October brought below average precipitation for most of Florida with the Atlantic coastal portions of FFS Regions Three and Four receiving the least amount of precipitation. Small portions of the central and western panhandle received above average precipitation for the month of October. In November, central Florida and the central panhandle region received the most rainfall with respect to the monthly average. The southeastern section of the state and the western panhandle regions were the only regions throughout the state that had precipitation totals fall short of their monthly averages with the western panhandle receiving the least amount of rainfall with respect to the November average.

Central and northern Florida once again experienced above-average precipitation in December while FFS Region Four (south Florida) continued to experience normal to below-average precipitation. The main producer of rain for November and December were frontal systems associated with low pressure systems that were fueled by the jet stream which began to dip farther down towards the southeast as fall progressed. Throughout the fall, central Florida and the central panhandle have received normal to above normal precipitation while the extreme western panhandle and the FFS Region Four area have received below normal precipitation. Fall 2014 has provided the state with below normal temperatures as well. A general pattern that provided an upper level trough over the eastern United States has led to these below-average temperatures. This pattern allowed colder air from the north to move southward down into Florida.  

Long-Range Weather Outlook

Looking ahead, the Climate Prediction Center has forecasted below average temperatures through March 2015. FFS Regions One and Two are given the greatest probabilities for below average temps while FFS Regions Three and Four are given slightly lower probabilities. Precipitation forecasts through the Climate Prediction Center are forecasting above average precipitation for the entire state with the exception of the extreme western Panhandle region which is forecasted to receive average precipitation amounts. FFS Regions Two and Three are given the greatest probabilities for above average precipitation while FFS Regions One and Four are given slightly lower probabilities. Given the precipitation trend that the northern and central part of Florida has seen already for the month of December, this prediction seems very reasonable.

Currently, ENSO neutral conditions continue; however, there is a 65% chance that El Niño conditions will be present for the Northern Hemisphere winter and last into spring 2015. The strength of the El Niño will be relatively weak if an El Niño event does occur, however there is still a chance that we could continue to stay in an El Niño neutral phase. Positive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the equatorial Pacific have occurred throughout the fall with the maximum anomalies occurring in the month of November. With December, the positive sea surface anomalies weakened in the eastern equatorial Pacific while the positive anomalies have increased for the western equatorial Pacific. Most of the numerical models favor an El Niño event to form and persist through spring 2015.

Summary and Fire Potential Outlook

Despite a dry start to the fall, it ended with above normal precipitation for the majority of the state excluding FFS Region Four and the extreme western panhandle. This is due to the general upper level pattern that positioned the jet stream farther south than in the beginning of the fall and has allowed for frontal systems to move through providing lifting mechanisms resulting in precipitation. The above-normal precipitation that is forecasted for the state in the near future will deter any drought conditions that may have been expected.

Additionally, the Climate Prediction Center has not forecasted any drought conditions for Florida through the end of March 2015. A weak El Niño event is still expected and is reflected in the below-normal temperature and above-normal precipitation forecasts provided by the Climate Prediction Center and the positive SST anomalies in the equatorial Pacific. Above average rainfall will likely decrease the number of days for optimal prescribed burning conditions, but will also lessen the chance of any severe wildfire activity.

The next seasonal outlook will be the first week in April, 2015. 

Additional Information

Three Month Temperature and Precipitation Outlook (CPC)

Drought Outlook (NOAA)

Fire Potential National Outlook (NIFC)