It’s March. That means hot weather is just around the corner for Florida. And in an early sign of spring, wildfires are cropping up around the state. On March 3, CNN reported that a wildfire had burned almost 2,000 acres and destroyed 10 homes (“Central Florida wildfire burns homes, scorches more than 1,900 acres,” by Scott Thompson and Greg Botelho).
So far, the Orlando Sentinel reports, about 560 fires have burned more than 7,600 acres statewide (“Seminole, Osceola under burn bans as wildfire risk rises across our region,” by Arelis R. Hernández). Florida homeowners and officials are keeping a cautious eye on the weather. “Recent dry, windy weather in Southwest Florida means the area is at an increased risk of brush fires, and experts say it will only get worse,” the Marco Island Sun Times reported (“Fire danger heads south,” by Marisa Kendall).
The Florida Forest Service released its last seasonal fire weather outlook back on January 15. At that time, the service said, there was no Pacific El Nino or La Nina pattern of the type that would strongly influence Florida conditions (El Nino tends to make Florida springs cooler and wetter, while La Nina makes them warmer and dryer). Instead, the Pacific is now viewed as “neutral.” “In the neutral phase, there is no distinct climate teleconnection with the tropical Pacific,” explains the agency. “This makes the upcoming period likely to be more variable and susceptible to other, more transient influences.” Bottom line, the report said, the season ahead is likely to be average — but that could change in a way that is hard to predict.