SEVERE WEATHER ALERT:

Friday, February 04, 2011

Severe Weather Awareness Week: Temperature Extremes and Wildfires

While wildfires can start at any time of the year, Florida sees a peak of activity during the early part of the year – beginning in January and continuing until the onset of more frequent rain during the wet season, usually in early to mid-June. A typical year in Florida will see over 4,600 fires burn nearly 110,000 acres of land. Florida is also home to a wide variety of temperatures that can reach dangerous levels.  The hottest temperature ever recorded in Florida was 109 degrees Fahrenheit and the coldest temperature recorded in Florida was minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wildfires are a perennial threat to the state of Florida. While wildfires can start at any time of the year, the state sees a peak of activity during the early part of the year – beginning in January and continuing until the onset of more frequent rain during the wet season, usually in early to mid-June. A typical year in Florida will see over 4,600 fires burn nearly 110,000 acres of land. While lightning is responsible for many fires, most wildfires are started by humans – the most common causes of human-started fires being arson and embers or flames that escape or are carried away by winds when burning debris or trash.

Wildfire outside of Lake City, Florida on
May 15, 2007.
In 2010, Florida saw more than 2,000 wildfires that burned about 25,000 acres through the end of September. This is a particularly low amount of wildfire activity compared to the past 30 years. Part of this reason is an El Niño event that was occurring during the early part of 2010. An El Niño occurs when there is warmer than normal water in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Winter El Niño events are frequently associated with cooler and wetter conditions in Florida, which helps to suppress wildfire activity.

In contrast to El Niño events, there are also events known as La Niña, in which the water in the same region of the tropical Pacific is abnormally cool. La Niña events are generally associated with warmer and drier winters in Florida. An increased amount of wildfire activity is often the result of La Niña events. In fact, Florida’s most severe bouts with wildfires occurred during La Niña events or during a quick transition to La Niña, which happened in 1998 and continued into 1999. Other recent examples include the Springs of 2001, 2004, and 2007.

1 comment:

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