Unprecedented Canadian wildfires intensified by record heat and climate change

It’s already a wildfire season for the record books in Canada, with the scorching heat of summer and the howling winds of autumn still ahead. Currently around 200 fires are burning across the country and more than half are out of control. Major fires were raging in more than half of the nations’ provinces as of Friday.

The surge in wildfires, intensified by record heat in many areas, is an ominous sign of the negative effects of climate change, which aren’t limited to Canada. Smoke continues to billow across the Lower 48 states, affecting air quality and showing the effects of climate change know no boundaries, even as the United States has seen a housefire season by comparison.

In May alone, Canada saw more than 6.5 million acres (2.7 million hectares) burn, compared to an average of about 370,000 acres (150,000 hectares) during the month.

These conditions at the start of the season are unprecedented and, of course, deeply concern all Canadians, Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of emergency preparedness, told reporters on Thursday, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Smoke from the wildfires is hitting the east coast. How bad is it for your health?

Now, a new intense heat wave is sweeping westward across the country, unwelcome news for many areas where wildfires aren’t contained.

Charred lands from coast to coast

Canadians from coast to coast to coast have felt the impact of intense wildfires. These wildfires threaten our communities, livelihoods and our environment, Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s minister of natural resources, said Thursday.

Several large fires continue to burn in Nova Scotia. The largest, the Barrington Lake Fire in the province’s south shore, burned more than 50,000 acres (20,000 ha), becoming Nova Scotia’s largest wildfire on record. Crews from Bozeman, Mont., have joined firefighting efforts in Atlantic Canada.

Canada’s largest wildfires remain concentrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Rockies meet the prairies. The region has been in drought conditions for much of the year and has recently seen very hot temperatures, including a record-breaking May in many places.

Both provinces have seen more than 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) burned so far this year.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, which tracks wildfire activity, wrote on Thursday that air emissions from wildfires were nearly the highest on record in Canada during May and record high in Colombia. British, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nova Scotia. .

Repeated rounds of record heat

Pulse after pulse of record heat helped stoke the extreme fire situation.

The heat reappeared in Nova Scotia on Thursday, with temperatures reaching 91 degrees (33 degrees Celsius) in Halifax, more than 18 degrees (10 degrees Celsius) above average. Record levels have also been observed in many eastern cities, including Ottawa at 95 degrees (35.1 degrees Celsius), Montreal at 94 degrees (34.3 degrees Celsius), and Toronto at 88 degrees (31 degrees Celsius).

Some of this heat has spilled over into the northern United States where numerous records they were fixed. Burlington, Vt., hit a blistering 96 degrees, breaking the previous record of 90 set on June 1, while Fargo, ND hit a record high of 97. Dozens of additional records could be set Friday and Saturday across the Great Lakes and North -East.

Over the next few days, more extreme temperatures in Canada are expected to drift westward, first touching Ontario and adjacent areas on Friday before moving onto the prairies over the weekend.

Migratory impulses of heat they affected large parts of Canada and parts of the northern United States throughout the spring. In Canada’s western half, Calgary, Edmonton, Yellowknife and Churchill, among other locations, had their hottest May on record. These points all ranged from 9 to 12 degrees (5 to 6.5 degrees Celsius) above average.

The predicted weather pattern offers little relief. Record and near-record heat is expected to focus on the western half of Canada and the Pacific Northwest in the coming week and possibly longer.

Current projections indicate that this could continue to be a tough summer for wildfires in parts of the country, Canada’s government said in a statement Thursday. Forecasts of hot and dry weather point to the potential for increased wildfire activity.

The role of climate change

Persistent and often extreme heat in high latitudes is among the clearest signs of climate change. It has been found that the Arctic and its surroundings are warming much faster than most of the planet.

Stagnant high pressure zones, bringing extended periods of sunshine and heat, have been numerous in recent years and were again the prevalent weather feature in 2023. A large zone of high pressure anchored around Hudson Bay has migrated frequently toward west and east for much of this year and especially since the spring.

These high-pressure zones, which climate change intensifies, not only raise temperatures and fuel fires, but also reinforce drought conditions that favor fires, drying the earth’s surface.

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