According to the National Weather Service, more than 42,000 fires burned more than 775,000 acres throughout the southern tier states during 2010.The Arkansas Forestry Commission reported 2,222 wildland fires in 2010 that burned 35,197 acres.

On Feb. 1, a commission map showed wildfire danger to be low everywhere but Ashley, Bradley, Cleveland, Calhoun, Chicot, Desha, Drew, Jefferson and Lincoln counties, where the danger is rated at moderate. Four counties had burn bans – Boone, Carroll, Polk and Searcy.

One of the major aspects of the emergence of La Niña was a very busy Atlantic hurricane season, which spawned 19 tropical storms, making it the third-most active on record. Despite the large number of storms, only Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Hermine produced any appreciable rainfall in the southern United States. Those storms only affected Texas; no significant rainfall from an organized tropical system fell along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida.

La Niña has developed 13 times since 1950, and the current La Niña ranks as the sixth-strongest. The question climate experts are asking now is whether it will fade with the approach of summer or continue into next year.

“Of the five stronger La Niñas that occurred, four resulted in multi-year events,” said Victor Murphy, climate program manager for NOAA’s National Weather Service southern region. “If this La Niña persists until next winter, the threat of drought conditions in the south extending into next year will be heightened.”

For more information about crop production, water conservation or forest management, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.