The primary weather concern across Texas this week will be elevated to critical wildfire danger. Before we get to the fire weather threat let’s go over the overall forecast for today through the rest of the work-week. Temperatures this afternoon will be warm for December standards with high temperatures peaking in the 70s across the eastern two-thirds of Texas. We’ll see the 60s across the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, into the Trans-Pecos and Borderland. These temperatures are about ten to twenty degrees above-average for mid-December, but that has been the norm lately. Low temperatures will be comfortable with the 30s and 40s across the state. A dry airmass will allow for large temperature spreads (high versus low). Tuesday and Thursday will be the coolest days this week with highs in the 50s and 60s versus 60s and 70s. Saturday is looking quite warm and windy at this point; a concern for fire weather conditions in the extended range. Showers are possible beginning late Thursday into Friday across parts of Southeast Texas and the Coastal Plains. The eventual track of the Thursday/Friday system will dictate who all gets in on the rain chances. At this point, rainfall amounts look light and should remain between a tenth and a quarter of an inch.
High to locally extreme fire danger is forecast today across the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, Northwest Texas, into North Texas, and Northeast Texas. A cool front moving into the Panhandle this afternoon will bring north winds of 15 to 25 MPH with higher gusts. Ahead of the front, we’ll see gusty southwest winds up to 30 MPH in the Big Country, North Texas, and Northeast Texas.
The combination of seasonably-warm temperatures and a dry airmass will result in relative humidity values will be below 25-30 percent this afternoon in much of Texas Some locations will see relative humidity values dropping into the teens. The highest fire danger will coexist where humidity values are the lowest and wind speeds are the highest.
However, Energy Release Component (ERC) values are above the 75th percentile across the Panhandle, West Texas, North Texas, and Northeast Texas. The ERC calculates how much moisture surface vegetation contains and how quickly a fire may burn should one develop. Values are above 75% in the yellow-shaded region and over 90% in the orange. Values over 60% are concerning for fire-growth, and 75%+ just isn’t good. An increase in grass fires along with their total acreage over the last week shows that even on days with little wind we’re seeing fires spread more quickly. Fire weather concerns are elevated to near critical today in the Texas Panhandle, with elevated conditions in West Texas, Northwest Texas, North Texas, and Northeast Texas. Should any fires develop they will have the potential to become established quickly and make hard runs. The heads will be more difficult to contain and spotting is likely. The relative highest potential today for a large/multi-day wildfire will be in the Texas Paespeciallyspucially along/north of Interstate 40. We’re starting our fire weather season earlier this year due to dry weather over the last few months. Amarillo is now up to 59 days (I believe) with no recorded precipitation. This has the potential to be a long wildfire season.