A Drought and Wildfire Update for Summer

Recently, members of SYRCL staff tuned into the Drought Update and Wildfire Outlook Webinar for California and the Southwest, a special joint region presentation which combined the California-Nevada Drought Early Warning System Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar Series and Southwest Drought Briefings, which are produced by the Intermountain West Drought Early Warning System and the USDA Southwest Climate Hub.  

Drought update provided by NDMC, NOAA, USDA

This webinar was designed to provide stakeholders and other interested parties in the region with timely and up-to-date information on the current drought status and outlook, as well as the wildland fire potential forecast. The webinar’s featured speakers included Dan McEvoy of the Western Regional Climate Center and the Desert Research Institute, Jim Wallmann from the National Interagency Fire Center, and Christina Restaino from the University of Nevada, Reno. 

The biggest takeaways were that, as expected, drought conditions remain widespread across the area and, with that, above average fire potential exists throughout the region. Both of these are areas of concern for our community. 

Dan McEvoy pointed out that the mountain snowpack is well below normal in California and the northern Great Basin, and inconsistent in the rest of the Rockies, with some locations doing better than others. He pointed out that the timing of the snow accumulation and melt is very important, indicating that many areas have seen an early melt this spring. He also noted that even with some of the late season rains we have experienced, water supply is below normal for most major reservoirs and critically low for Lake Mead and Lake Powell. 

McEvoy also pointed out that persistent hot, dry, windy, and sunny conditions have led to record high evaporative demand across the region. Finally, he said that June/July/August outlooks from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center favor above-normal Southwest temperatures and below-normal to equal chances of normal precipitation. 

Jim Wallman then talked about the current fire season, stating that fire activity will progress north and west through July and August, continuing through September, and pointed to the National Interagency Fire Center website for further outlook information. 

All of this points to another hot, dry, dangerous fire season for 2022. 

Christina Restaino finished the presentation portion of the webinar talking about a resource called livingwithfire.org which the UNR extension put together to help people with fire preparedness. Addressing what she felt the most important things people can do to be prepared for fire season, she mentioned creating a five foot burn resistant zone around homes, screen all vents with 1/8 inch noncombustible screens, have an evacuation plan ready, and to check fire insurance coverage to understand what is covered and what is not. 

Now, more than ever, it is important to practice good fire safety practices, work on defensible space management and home hardening implementation, sign up for Code Red, have your evacuation plans carefully mapped out, and make sure you Know Your Zone. 

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