Fire Weather Outlook

October - December, 2014

Updated October 6, 2014

Recent Conditions

Summer 2014 saw near normal temperatures across the state; however precipitation flipped from the spring.  In the spring the northern part of the state heavy rainfall while the southern end of the state saw below normal rainfall.  Summer rainfall patterns reversed and the northern part of the state saw below normal rainfall while the southern end of the state saw above normal rainfall.  Near the end of summer several frontal boundaries pushed into the state and helped to ease any potential severe rainfall deficits in the north.  Of the nine locations in which we track annual rainfall, only two are showing a deficit while the remainder shows a surplus.  One of the two will probably have the deficit erased by late September rainfall.  Fort Myers is the only location that will need substantial, long term rainfall to erase their rainfall deficit.

The Atlantic tropical cyclone season has been relatively quiet with only four named storms so far.  The Pacific tropical cyclone season has been very active.  In the Tropical Pacific, the presence of a large, extremely warm pool of subsurface water this spring showed at least the potential for an extremely strong El Niño event which has not come to fruition.  The surface waters in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) regions have been slowly warming.  In the past several weeks, the ENSO regions have been near the El Niño mark, but the atmospheric portion of the oscillation has not matched up for an El Niño event to initiate, keeping it in an ENSO neutral condition.

Long-Range Weather Outlook

Despite recent conditions, the development of an El Niño later this fall or winter is still expected. If an El Niño does develop it will probably be a weak one at best.  A moderate-strength El Niño is still a possibility but looks less likely as we move into the next quarter.  When and how quickly the El Niño develops could become a factor late in the forecast period.  There is also the possibility that we will stay in an ENSO neutral phase if the atmospheric conditions do not become more conducive to the formation of an El Niño event. 

Further out, the potential for warmer temperatures is forecast to continue through December. Precipitation forecasts through the Climate Prediction Center are predicting above average precipitation through the next three months. FFS Regions One and Two are given a slightly lower chance of above normal precipitation than FFS Regions Three and Four.  The above normal precipitation will also see any drought conditions that remain slowly improve.  If this month’s rainfall trend continues into the forecast period this is not an unreasonable expectation.  Since we still have two months remaining in the tropical cyclone season any land falling tropical system can skew any of these forecasts.  

Summary and Fire Potential Outlook

Spring and summer proved how varied the weather in Florida can be.  Warm and dry in the south during the spring then becoming wetter during the summer, while north Florida was the opposite, drying out in the summer.  This past month Florida has seen generally near normal temperatures and above normal rainfall, with one exception, the Tallahassee area.  Despite some slowness in seeing the development of El Niño conditions, an El Niño event later this year is still likely, though not as strong as previously predicted.  The summer months, with frequent rainfall events, tend to see less wildfire activity, and this summer was no different.   The conflicting three month outlooks tend to validate the uncertainty about the development of an El Niño with any strength.  Typically Florida would experience cooler and wetter conditions during an El Niño event, but the current forecast has both temperatures and rainfall above average.  Above average rainfall will shrink the number of days for prescribed burning, but will also lessen the chance of any severe wildfire activity.

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

Additional Information

Three Month Temperature and Precipitation Outlook (CPC)

Drought Outlook (NOAA)

Fire Potential National Outlook (NIFC)