Data Source(s): National Interagency Coordination Center, Southwest Coordination Center
The onset of monsoon precipitation in southern portions of Arizona and New Mexico occurs around July 1; to the north, summer rains begin later in July. Consequently, the forecast for July called for significant fire potential to be normal in southern regions and above normal in the north. Significant fire potential refers to the likelihood that a wildland fire will require additional resources from outside the area in which the fire originated.
Through the first half of July, above-average precipitation fell in many areas in eastern Arizona, including a large swath in northern Arizona (see Precipitation). This helped quell fire activity and risk for new ignitions in those areas. Precipitation in New Mexico, although scant in the southwest corner, also helped reduce fire risk in much of the state. Through July 15, the number of acres burned in both states was below average despite dry conditions in months preceding the height of the fire season (see Southwest Fire Summary). Now that the monsoon has arrived, the expectation is that the risk for significant fires will be normal (Figure 13). Historically, the peak fire season occurs in June and July, with smaller, more infrequent fires occurring in months that follow. For example, only about 10 percent of the acres burned during the calendar years between 2000 and 2012 occurred after July.
The National Interagency Coordination Center at the National Interagency Fire Center produces seasonal wildland fire outlooks each month. They are subjective assessments that synthesize information provided by fire and climate experts throughout the United States. The forecast (Figure 14) considers observed climate conditions, climate and weather forecasts, vegetation health, and surface-fuels conditions in order to assess potential for fires greater than 100 acres.