2012 New Mexico Fire Weather Review
 
A more detalied summary of the 2012 fire season and associated weather highlights is available as a PDF.
 
 Overview

 

The 2012 New Mexico wildfire season trended lower in terms of acreage burned compared to 2011. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate a year by year comparison of acreage and number of fires.  Based simply on the numbers, 2012 was an "average" year. However, the 2012 wildfire season was anything but average. The Whitewater-Baldy wildfire (Gila NF) replaced the Las Conchas (Jemez Mtns) as the largest historical fire in New Mexico with nearly 300,000 acres burned. The Little Bear fire near Ruidoso destroyed over 250 homes and structures. 

The 2011 wildfire season was anomalous in many ways as it concerned the "set-ups"  but the 2012 season had its blend of significant set-ups as well.
 
NM acreage burned by wildfires since 2000.
Courtesy of Southwest Coordination Center (SWCC).
   
An overall dry winter coupled with breezier conditions during the February-March-April period followed by well above normal temperatures May-June and periods of short lived moisture intrusions and lightning led to many fire starts in the mountain or timbered areas.

Fire starts across the eastern plains were down considerably compared to 2011. That was a direct result of the lack of fuel loading (grass and shrubs) there. The spring green-up period was limited across the state due to the lack of the overall soil moisture although some areas did receive more "normal" growth. The summer growing season remained muted except for localized areas due to the sporadic nature to the Monsoon season.
 

WILDFIRES BY LAND AGENCY: 2011 VS. 2012

 2011 (click on image above)  2012 (click on image above)
   

Another interesting change concerned the cause of wildfires. In 2011, human-caused fires were much more prevalent than lightning-caused fires. The roles became reversed in 2012 where lightning was the major contributor to wildfire acreage.
 
Site specific forecasts done by the Albuquerque NWS office to support wildfires, prescribed burns and hazmat incidents was down compared to the past few years. Five-hundred seventeen forecasts were provided to land agency and county/local government officials. As a comparison, 685 requests were fulfilled in 2011 and 558 in 2010.
 


"SEASONAL TRENDS IN PHOTOGRAPHS
" :  2011 VS. 2012
COURTESY OF BRENT WACHTER


JANUARY IN THE SANDIA MOUNTAINS AT 10,400 FEET MSL.
  January 30, 2011                  January 31, 2012
 
 
APRIL IN THE JEMEZ MOUNTAINS AT 8,000 FEET MSL
 
  April 3, 2011     April 1, 2012
   
APRIL IN THE SANDIA FOOTHILLS AT 6,500 FEET MSL
 
 

  
   
  
   

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