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2023 US wildfire season sees total acreage burned under 3 million, far below 10-year avg. & lowest since 1998

By Meteorologist Paul Dorian – Arcfield –

2023 US Wildfire Season

The news has been quite good this year with respect to the total number of acres burned on US soil due to wildfire activity. In fact, the total acreage burned this year is under 3 million (through 12/18) which is far below the 10-year average of nearly 7 million from 2013-2022 and the lowest since 1998.

One of the main contributing factors to the down year in overall US wildfire activity is the fact that it has been a mild year in California with the number of burned acres under 390,000 (as of 12/18). This value is down about 75% from the 5-year average of about 1.6 million acres burned in the Golden State (data source). The relatively mild year of 2023 follows another relatively mild year in 2022; however, the two years before that (2020, 2021) were some of the worst on record.

The path of Tropical Storm Hilary which brought rainfall to southern California during the middle of August. Credit: Wikipedia

The weather during 2023 played an important role in keeping wildfire activity on the mild side across California. To begin, the winter of 2022-2023 brought very high precipitation amounts to the Golden State with record-breaking snow amounts at the higher elevations (e.g., Sierra Nevada). The melting of the snow this past summer season indeed lasted as late as ever in some spots helping to keep plenty of soil on the wet side across portions of California. Also, the wildfire season of summer and fall featured overall cooler than normal conditions helping to inhibit wildfire formation and expansion. Finally, Tropical Storm Hilary made a visit to the southern part of the state during the middle of August and the precipitation from this storm played a beneficial role in inhibiting wildfires during the all-important late summer and early fall time period.