With the advent of May come typically higher mercury readings across the Southwest, and, as temperatures rise, so do concerns over related issues like drought and wildfire.

While winter and early spring rains have brought much needed relief to many farms and ranches, forecasters and producers alike know well it wouldn’t take much for conditions to deteriorate quickly, leaving the Southwest once again parched and dry.

While dry conditions can mean crop reduction or failure, stress on forage supplies and water shortages, it can also result in related problems that producers face, like the risks of wildland fires.

Last year in Texas alone, a historic wildfire season of nearly 30,000 individual fires claimed 4 million acres and was devastating to property owners and natural resources, prompting state and federal officials to plan for another potentially active fire season this summer.

Outlook report

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has issued their 2012 Fire Outlook Report and, depending on developing weather conditions, the report indicates there is a chance of another tough year of rangeland and forest fires which could tax state and federal firefighting resources again.

“The area we are most concerned about are parts of the Southwest and the western slopes of the Rockies,” said NFIC’s Ed Delgado in an interagency conference call. “We are looking at key factors such as sustained drought conditions and the effects of low snow impact and what [the dry] fuel state is at this point and how that will evolve in the weeks ahead.”

Delgado says it largely depends on the weather.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty in the global circulation pattern, the transitioning into a neutral pattern or the development of an El Nińo pattern, and that will have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the 2012 fire season,” he added.

Oklahoma Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus agrees. He says current conditions across most of Oklahoma are much better than they were a year ago.