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Canadians suffocated by smoke while fires cool down with sun-blocking effect


A scorched earth following fires in Shining Bank, Alberta, Canada, on May 11, 2023.

Wildfire smoke blanketing western Canada prompted health warnings in several cities, but it also helped calm the fires by blocking out the scorching sun across the hardest-hit parts of the country on Sunday.

Wildfires in Alberta have displaced tens of thousands of people and burned more than 941,000 hectares over several weeks.

“It’s definitely a mixed bag of smoke,” Kristi Tucker of the Alberta Wildfire Agency told a news briefing.

“Obviously many Albertans can’t get away from the smoke this weekend. It’s thick in many parts of the province,” she said. But they would also have noticed that the temperatures would be much cooler than if there were no smoke covering the sun.

Less heat means we’ve seen less fire growth, Tucker said. Only five new outbreaks have been reported since Friday.

On the other hand, she added, firefighters have often been unable to fly planes to get an accurate picture of the size and number of fires burning over the past few days.

Weather maps showed smoke from the fires covering more than 1 million square miles (2.7 million square kilometers) and extending as far as the eastern coast of North America and the North Pole.

Environment Canada issued warnings about poor air quality posing an “extremely high risk” to health in the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, where the sky was orange and the smell of smoke lingered in the air.

Residents have been urged to limit outdoor activities.

Air quality alerts were also issued in several US states as plumes of thick smoke billowed from Alberta across the border.

In recent years, Western Canada has been repeatedly subjected to severe weather events, the intensity and frequency of which have increased due to global warming.

The above-average weekend high temperature of 28°C (82°F) is expected to drop by about 10° by Monday and remain low throughout the week.

More rain is also expected after several rains hit Alberta this weekend.

But Tucker said, “While we’re optimistic that the forecast rain will be enough to make a difference to some of the wildfires in the county, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

© 2023 AFP

the quote: Smoke chokes Canadians but cools wildfires by blocking the sun (2023, May 22) Retrieved May 22, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-canadians-cooling-wildfires-blocking-sun.html

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