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What’s Causing the Canadian Wildfires?

Canada is battling wildfires on a scale never seen before, with effects reaching even the eastern part of North America. What is causing these unprecedented fires?

Canadian Wildfires New York
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Orange skies and acrid air look like they’ve come straight out of a scene from a post-apocalyptic film – but sadly, this is a reality for Canada and some parts of America these days. Although many wildfires happen in Canada every year, it is unusual and unprecedented for the wildfire season to start this early and for the effects to reach the eastern part of North America. 

According to forest-management specialist Anthony Taylor, the number one cause of these forest fires is the weather. It has been unusually warm and arid for the spring season in Canada, and the country had only half its usual rainfall. In fact, the capital of Nova Scotia received less than 120 mm of rainfall, which is one-third of its average spring precipitation levels, said a meterorologist from the Weather Network.

Piyush Jain, a research scientist for the Canadian Forest Service, El Niño is an unlikely cause of the change in weather – although it has been confirmed that El Niño has arrived, the effects are predicted to manifest only later in the year. According to Jain, climate change is an extremely likely factor contributing to these weather conditions. The high temperature and low precipitation has resulted in dry forests, so once a fire starts, it is easier for them to spread quickly, even to places where wildfires are uncommon, like Nova Scotia. 

In a recent report, the BBC highlighted the connection between the wildfires and climate change: in 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change discovered that hot and dry weather conditions, also known as ‘fire weather’, makes forests more prone to going up in flames. 

A report from Al Jazeera says that the wildfires are believed to have been caused, at least partially, by lightning, as is the case of the fires in Quebec, or by human beings. For example, a fire in the New Brunswick province was caused by a vehicle catching fire on a forest trail, spreading the flames to the surrounding trees and shrubs. 

Unfortunately, the fires are not yet under control – out of 427 fires more than half of them were classified as out of control by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. The extreme scale of the fires is exhausting Canada’s firefighters and equipment, despite help from firefighting groups in France, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and the United States. 

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