As smoke from Canadian wildfires moved across North America and abroad, choking millions of people and causing severe air quality alerts, a deep orange-brown sun rose through cloudy skies.
This wildfire season has been exceptional in terms of the number of fires, the area that has been burned, the amount of smoke produced by the fires, and it is only the beginning.
It’s also unusual that fires started at the same moment all around the nation.
In Canada, forest and grasslands had burnt for more than eight million hectares (20 million acres) as of Wednesday, shattering the previous yearly record of 7.3 million hectares established in 1989. And Canada has yet to reach the peak of the fire season, which is usually in July or August.
In Canada’s boreal forest, a hot, dry spring left behind a significant fuel load of dried plants and dead limbs.
According to Jack Chen of Canada’s environment ministry, burning humus fires that can burn deep below release a lot of smoke and increase carbon monoxide emissions.
The boreal forest emits 10 to 20 times more carbon per unit of area burned than other ecosystems, which has devastating impacts on the climate.
According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), hundreds of forest fires since early May have produced approximately 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 88 percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions from all sources in 2021.