October 4, 2023

What’s behind the Canadian wildfires that are blanketing the East Coast in smoke?

In the past six weeks, massive wildfires have spread across Canada, prompting mass evacuations and burning more than 3.3 million acres of land – larger than the state of Maryland.

Although Canada’s wildfire season runs from May to October, such destruction this early in the season is rare. A month later, Canada is on track to experience its most destructive wildfire season in history. Temperature extremes and droughts caused by climate change do made a tinder box.

This Canadian crisis was not confined to the Great North. Smoke from the fires has spread across much of the US and is having consequences air quality millions on the East Coast as the fires continue with no sign of stopping.

Why is Canada on fire?

Warm and dry conditions are like kindling for forest fires. Much of Canada, like the rest of North America, has recently experienced record heat and drought as climate change continues to warm the planet.

Late last month, Canada experienced its hottest day on record when Lytton, British Columbia, hit 49.6 degrees Celsius, breaking the previous record of 131 degrees. It be bound to California’s Death Valley as the hottest place in North America that day.

In the Canadian prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – where fires are now raging – the drought has hit particularly hard. Currently, all 10 provinces are experiencing abnormal drought, moderate or severe drought, according to the Canada Drought Monitor.

According to the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System, the devastation from these fires to this point in the season has been 13 times the 10-year average.

If New York City was suffocating under a thick smog that the sky turned orange and enveloped the skyscrapers and the Statue of LibertySenator Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday that climate change caused the smoke that blanketed the East Coast.

“These Canadian wildfires are truly unprecedented and we cannot ignore the fact that climate change continues to exacerbate these disasters,” he said. “Warmer temperatures and severe droughts mean forests are burning faster, burning hotter and burning bigger, and warming is happening faster in countries with higher latitudes. None of this — none of this is a coincidence.”

How did the fires in Canada start?

Dry, warm weather also brings more lightning. In a normal season, half of Canada’s wildfires are caused by lightning, but those fires are responsible for more than 85% of wildfire destruction. The other half is man-made.

In Quebec, for example, fires were caused by lightning, but officials in Alberta have said the cause of the fires there is currently unknown. Elsewhere in the country, these fires have been caused by people in a variety of ways, from discarded cigarette butts to sparks from passing trains.

Why are Canada’s wildfires out of control?

Harsh weather conditions fuel these fast-spreading fires, making them extremely difficult to fight.

The country is currently at “national preparedness level 5”, meaning Canada has fully deployed all of its national resources to mobilize the fight against the fires.

Chris Stockdale, a wildfire investigation officer with the Canadian Forest Service, told CBS News late last month that as part of that “level 5” statement, “international liaison officers” are flying in from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to help fight the fires. .

Firefighters also come from the US More than 1,200 international firefighters have been deployed to Canada, the Canadian Press reported.

And forecasts offer little hope. On Monday, the Canadian government issued an updated bushfire season outlook stating that “current June projections indicate the potential for continued higher-than-normal fire activity across most of the country through the 2023 bushfire season due to continued drought and long – range predictions for warm temperatures.”

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