Explain: Why are the fires raging in the eastern province of Nova Scotia in Canada?

June 2 (Reuters) – Wildfires are common in Canada’s western provinces, but this year the eastern province of Nova Scotia is reeling from its worst wildfire season ever, forcing the federal government to send in the military on Thursday.

The Atlantic Province has had nearly 200 fires so far this year that have burned more than 19,000 hectares and displaced more than 25,000 people. In 2022, there were only 152 fires that burned 3,390 hectares.

Across Canada, an estimated 2.7 million hectares, equal to more than five million football pitches, have been burned this year, federal Minister for Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair told reporters on Thursday.

HOW UNUSUAL ARE THE FIRES IN NOVA SCOTLAND?

Located on Canada’s east coast, Nova Scotia’s climate is heavily influenced by the North Atlantic Ocean, which brings higher humidity and more moderate temperatures than many other parts of the country. Fires are not unusual but tend to be much smaller than those in the west.

The region is covered in what is known as the “Acadian Forest”, which contains many broadleaf trees such as sugar maples mixed with evergreens such as conifers. Broadleaf trees are less flammable than evergreens because their branches and leaves are further away from the ground and their leaves hold more moisture.

The Acadian forest is much less prone to major fires than the forests of western Canada.

WHAT CAUSES THEM?

Atlantic Canada has received little snow this winter, followed by an exceptionally dry spring. Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax, received just 120 millimeters of rain between March and May, about a third of the average, according to Weather Network meteorologist Michael Carter.

A scorching heatwave in late May pushed temperatures in Halifax to 33 degrees Celsius on Thursday, about 10 degrees above normal for this time of year.

Most of the fires are believed to have been caused accidentally by human activity.

Ellen Whitman, a researcher with the Canadian Forest Service, said there is also speculation that trees culled during Hurricane Fiona, which hit Atlantic Canada in September 2022, or killed by an infestation of forest pests could provide more fuel than usual for wildfires, but that theory requires further investigation.

WHAT ROLE DOES CLIMATE CHANGE PLAY?

Whitman said it’s difficult to determine the impact of climate change on a single fire season, but Atlantic Canada has been much warmer than usual, and scientists predict temperatures in the region will continue to rise over the next few years.

For coastal regions, climate change is expected to bring more rain, which should reduce wildfire risk, but a warmer atmosphere is more efficient at pulling moisture from the soil, a factor that increases wildfire risk.

Widespread spring fires across Canada are also unusual, and research shows fire seasons across North America are lengthening.

WHAT ARE THE OUTLOOK FOR THE FIRES?

Weather forecasts show that a spell of cooler, wetter air is moving into Atlantic Canada on Friday, providing much-needed relief. Long-range forecasts from the Weather Network predict that Nova Scotia temperatures will be slightly warmer than normal for the remainder of the summer.

If the fires persist, the business impact is expected to be limited as the region has no onshore oil and gas operations, unlike Western Canada.

Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Michael Perry

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

#Explain #fires #raging #eastern #province #Nova #Scotia #Canada

Leave a Comment