Canadian Wildfires Send Smoke Spilling Into the U.S., Triggering Air Quality Alerts

Posted: June 7, 2023 10:14 am

What is turning into a historic wildfire season for Canada has impacted the U.S. with poor air quality as the smoke filters to the south. New Yorkers woke up Tuesday to exceptionally hazy skies as the smoke ramped up. Here is the latest on this situation and what you can expect in the coming days.

Recapping the Fires

Millions of acres have burned across Canada this year, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes as a safety measure. Dozens of structures have been destroyed as the flames encroach closer to populated areas. Unfortunately for Canadians already tired of this wildfire season, the long-range forecast predicts that it is just getting started.

The typical wildfire season in Canada starts in May and lasts through September. The action started this year in western Canada, sweeping through the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan starting at the beginning of the month.

Alberta was put under a provincial state of emergency because of the destructive fires, speaking to how dire the situation was. This state of emergency was lifted in early June.

The eastern coast of the country erupted in flames more recently, sending the infernos through Nova Scotia. As of the first week of June, the most serious fires are burning in Quebec with over 100 fires currently active in this province.

History Making Wildfire Season

The early start to the wildfire season has already put the nation on pace to break a number of records. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), almost 9 million acres have burned already in 2023. This number translates to more than 1.3 million acres burned over the 40-year historical average.

Should the fires keep this pace, more acres will burn through early June than the entire country saw in 2022. That year saw almost 4.1 total acres burn across the country.

As of June 6, the CIFFC was monitoring over 400 blazes. The worst wildfire season in Canada over the last 25 years happened in 2014 when almost 11.3 million acres were singed.

In addition, there have only been six seasons over the last four decades that saw over 10 million acres burn. By early June, Canada is nearly closing in on that number for 2023 with months to go in the season.

The ongoing drought throughout Canada has contributed to the early and ferocious start to the 2023 wildfire season.

Hazardous Smoke Filters Into U.S.

The severity of the fires burning in Canada have sent smoke down into the U.S. Air quality levels have risen to dangerous levels, landing between poor and dangerous in many areas.

Poor air quality is particularly dangerous for vulnerable populations, including the elderly, young children, or individuals with underlying respiratory issues.

A dip in the jet stream is encouraging the smoke to drop farther and farther south this week, sending it spilling across a large portion of the northern and eastern U.S. The Great Lakes and the interior Northeast will see the worst of the air quality.

You are not imagining it if you smell smoke in cities such as Buffalo and Chicago. These major metropolitan areas have already seen poor air quality indexes this week as a result of the smoke.

The smoke is expected to expand eastward this week. Air quality alerts have already been put in place for New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The alert cautions vulnerable individuals to limit the time that they spend outside.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warns that prolonged exposure to these dangerous fine particles will raise the risk of respiratory issues in sensitive populations, potentially aggravating lung and heart disease conditions.

Fiery Sunrise Grips New York City on Tuesday

The smoke created a fiery sunrise in New York City Tuesday morning as the smoke encompassed the city in an orange haze. The sun glowed eerily across the city, producing a number of stunning photos with the famous Manhattan skyline in the background.

By Tuesday morning, the air quality index in New York City was designated as “unhealthy.” It is forecast to stay at this level through Friday. This is the worst air quality seen in the Big Apple since 2019.

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