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Arizona wildfire season outlook: Lower elevations could see above-normal fire season

Arizona firefighters rescue fawns from wildfire
Posted at 11:27 AM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 16:27:31-04

PHOENIX — Multiple storms moved through Arizona this past fall and winter, bringing near-normal precipitation to our state.

However despite the rain and snow, Arizona is still on track to have a wildfire season and it could be an above-normal fire season in our lower elevations.

That’s according to the Northern Arizona Fire Season Outlook just released by the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.

One of the factors meteorologists consider when creating these outlooks are drought conditions across the state.

While our 2019-2020 fall and winter precipitation helped improve or slow the spread of drought conditions across central and most of northern Arizona, that wasn’t the case in northeast Arizona.

As of March 31, the Navajo Nation and Four Corners region is seeing moderate to severe drought conditions.

Those areas make up the 23 percent of Arizona that is currently experiencing drought.

By comparison, 18 percent of our state was in a drought by this same time last year. Unlike this year, there also weren’t any areas under severe drought conditions at this same time last year.

The weather over the next few months may not bring any drought relief to those areas in northeast Arizona.

At this point, there is an equal chance of above normal, near normal, or below normal temperatures and precipitation in Arizona during April. So the odds aren’t tipping one way or the other.

While we may see additional storms bring rain and snow this month, there’s also a threat of stronger winds which is common for spring in Arizona.

The outlook for May and June call for drier than normal conditions in the Four Corners region, which could worsen the drought situation there.

Another factor to consider when it comes to our wildfire threat is the amount of available fuel.

According to NWS Flagstaff, the amount of fine fuels at lower elevations is above normal. So this could lead to a higher than normal wildfire threat for lower elevations.

The near-normal 2019-2020 winter precipitation will keep the wildfire threat near-normal for the higher elevations across Northern Arizona.