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NOAA image stating that drought feeds fires in southern plains.December 30, 2005 Wildfires will likely continue to char the landscape of the southern Plains into the start of the New Year as NOAA predicts unseasonably warm temperatures, low humidity and increasing winds in combination with drought-stricken land.

“This is a potentially very dangerous situation,” said Phillip Bothwell, fire weather focal point for the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. “With this very high fire danger, public officials have advised that New Year celebrations continue without fireworks. Also, cigarettes must be properly extinguished and local burn bans need to be honored. All are worthy sacrifices given the potential loss for life and property.”

Factors fueling these winter fires include:

  • NOAA image of drought monitor as of December 27, 2005. Please credit “NOAA.”Drought. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor, issued by NOAA and partner agencies on Thursday, shows the driest conditions in the nation lie across central and eastern Texas, central and eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas where the drought is described as “severe” to “exceptional.” (Click NOAA image for larger view of drought monitor as of December 27, 2005. Please credit “NOAA.”)
  • Dry fuels. Grass and other vegetation have been starved of rain and snow and the forecast remains dry. Precipitation for the year (through December 29), for example, is 22.08 inches below average in Denton, Texas, and 14.08 inches short in Tulsa, Okla.
  • Warm temperatures. Highs in the 70s to near 80 degrees will be common on Sunday and are well above average for January 1. An average high in Dallas/Fort Worth is 54 degrees F with 47 degrees F in Oklahoma City.
  • Low humidity. Dry air is imported by westerly winds descending the southern Rockies and blowing across the hardened land. Needed moisture flowing north from the Gulf of Mexico is shunted east.
  • Wind. Steady breezes with gusts to 40 mph help to quickly fan existing flames.

NOAA image of wildfire hot spots in the southern Plains taken December 29, 2005, at 1:06 p.m. CST.Residents of the southern Plains are urged to stay up-to-date on this elevated fire weather situation through forecasts and special statements from NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices and the two-day fire outlooks from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. (Click NOAA image for larger view of wildfire hot spots in the southern Plains taken December 29, 2005, at 1:06 p.m. CST. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA National Weather Service

NOAA Storm Prediction Center

NOAA Storm Prediction Center Fire Weather Forecasts

NOAA Fire Weather Information Center

NOAA Drought Information Center

Media Contact:
Greg Romano, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 169