The annual emissions from wildfires in Canada as of June 26, 2023, have reached record levels, marking the largest amount the country has seen since satellite monitoring began in 2003.
Wildfires burning across Canada have released an unprecedented 160 million tonnes of carbon, marking the largest emissions from fires the country has seen since satellite monitoring started in 2003. The data, gathered by the EU’s Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS), highlights the severity of the 2023 wildfire season, the worst on record for the country.
Approximately 76 000 km2 (29 000 mi2) have been affected by the fires across eastern and western Canada. This total burn area surpasses the combined area burned in the years 2016, 2019, 2020, and 2022, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.
Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at Copernicus, noted that the record-breaking emissions are driven more by the fires in eastern Canada than those in western Canada. The emissions from just Alberta and British Columbia are not near any record levels.
The massive emissions generated by Canada’s intense wildfire activity in May and June have significantly impacted air quality both within the country and beyond. Fire radiative power (FRP) for the country as a whole in the first three weeks of June was significantly higher than the average from 2003 to 2022, with estimated carbon emissions for the month exceeding 100 megatonnes.
While emissions levels from the start of the year until the first week of May remained close to the 2003-2022 mean, they quickly skyrocketed to much higher than any previous year in the CAMS record.
The effect on air quality has reached far beyond Canada’s borders. Smoke from the wildfires was detected in Europe by the second week of June, with long-range smoke transport across the Atlantic forecasted by CAMS since June 23. By June 26, the majority of the smoke reached western Europe and continued moving east.
1 Europe experiences significant transport of smoke from Canada wildfires – CAMS – June 27, 2023
2 Canadian wildfire emissions reach record high in 2023 – The Weather Network – June 27, 2023
Featured image credit: NASA Aqua/MODIS. Acquired on June 14, 2023
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