Wildfires - December 2011

NCEI added Alaska climate divisions to its nClimDiv dataset on Friday, March 6, 2015, coincident with the release of the February 2015 monthly monitoring report. For more information on this data, please visit the Alaska Climate Divisions FAQ.

Updated: 6 January 2012


During December 2011, approximately 207,151 acres (83,830 hectares) burned across the country, the fifth most for the month in the 12-year period of record. The record for December acreage burned occurred in 2007, 427,160 acres (172,865 hectares). During the January-December period, 8.7 million acres (3.5 million hectares) burned across the U.S. — the 3rd most in the 12-year period of record. The most acres burned during the January-December period occurred in 2006, when 9.9 million acres (4.0 million hectares) burned nationwide.

1-Month Wildfire Statistics*
December Totals Rank
(out of 12 years)
Record 2000-2010
Value Year
Acres Burned 211,666 5th Most 427,160 2007 178,037
8th Least
Number of Fires 7,497 Most on Record 7,497 2011 4,110
12th Least
Acres Burned per Fire 28.2 9th Most 72.3 2000 44.1
4th Least
Year-to-Date Wildfire Statistics*
January - December Totals Rank
(out of 12 years)
Record 2000-2010
Value Year
Acres Burned 8,711,367 3rd Most 9,873,745 2006 6,612,363
10th Least
Number of Fires 74,126 7th Most 96,385 2006 77,951
6th Least
Acres Burned per Fire 117.5 3rd Most 130.2 2005 85.2
10th Least

*Data Source: The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)


During December, wetter-than-average conditions were present from the Southern Rockies, stretching across the Southern and Central Plains and into the Great Lakes region. Most of the West and parts of the Southeast had below-average precipitation during December 2011. The weather pattern during December brought much warmer-than-average temperatures across the Northern Plains, stretching into the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast. Cooler-than-average temperatures were present for much of the West and Southern Plains. See the U.S. Temperature and Precipitation discussion for more information. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the monthly pattern improved drought conditions across much of the Southern Plains and Southwest and worsened for the West. The percent area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing D0-D4 drought conditions grew from 41.0 percent at the end of November to 49.6 percent at the end of December. Drought conditions generally improved one to two categories during the month across Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Louisiana. Drought conditions developed across a large area of California, Nevada, and Oregon, where December and the two much prior were much drier than average. Drought conditions remained generally unchanged across the Upper Midwest and the Southeast.

Wildfire information and environmental conditions are provided by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Wildland Fire Assessment System (WFAS).

At the beginning of December, there were three large wildfires burning across the country. Two large wildfires were active in central California, where below-average precipitation contributed to elevated fire danger and Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) values across the state. Very-low 10-hour fuel moistures and moderately-low 100-hour and 1,000-hour fuel moistures were also observed in the region on December 1st. One large fire was active in Minnesota, where drier-than-normal conditions have been present for the past several months, causing low 10-hour fuel moistures across parts of the state.

At the mid-point of December, no large wildfires were active across the country.

By the end of December, only one large wildfire was burning across the nation (in Minnesota). Below-average precipitation across the state was associated with the observed low 10-hour fuel moistures.

All Fire Related Maps

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Wildfires for December 2011, published online January 2012, retrieved on December 1, 2015 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/201112.