Canada's Wildfire Season Has Obliterated Previous Records

An area the size of Wisconsin has burned, and more than 1K fires are still active
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2023 8:18 AM CDT
Canada's Wildfire Season Is by Far the Worst on Record
Smoke fills the air in Scotch Creek, Canada, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.   (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

This year has been by far the worst on record for wildfires in Canada, with an area the size of Wisconsin burned, and the fire season isn't over yet. The fires have burned some 41 million acres, more than double the record of 17.5 million acres set in 1995, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center. The average over the decade before this year's fires was about 6.2 million acres. But while the area burned has grown massively, the number of fires has barely changed, Quartz reports. The CIFFC says that over the last 25 years, there has been an average of 6,108 fires a year. Some 6,131 have been recorded so far in 2023.

The problem, scientists say, is that drier conditions created by climate change have allowed fires to burn faster, further, and earlier than in previous years, and the fires will only deepen the climate crisis. Last month, Michael Norton, the director general of the northern forestry center at the Canadian Forest Center, said the fires had already released a billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equivalent to what the global airline industry emits in a year, the CBC reports. "There has been very little respite since May," he said. "This season has been relentless. This is by far the largest amount of area burned since we started keeping good records."

The Canadian fires caused terrible air quality in eastern US states early in the summer and smoke is still drifting to the US, Axios reports. Air quality alerts have been issued through Thursday in Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Nebraska. The CIFFC says 1,008 wildfires were burning in Canada as of Wednesday night. (Read more wildfires stories.)

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