This year’s Canadian wildfire season has been unusually severe, with 239 of the 414 wildfires burning across the country as of June 7 out of control1. These wildfires have burned nearly 10 million acres of forest2 and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes1. More worryingly, smoke from these wildfires has drifted to the East Coast of the United States, causing air pollution and visual obstruction. This article examines where and why wildfires occurred in Canada, describes their impact on the East Coast of the United States, and explores when fires can be brought under control and clear skies can be restored.
Locations and causes of wildfires in Canada
Canadian wildfires are concentrated in the central provinces of Ontario and Quebec, where a total of 211 wildfires are burning, 145 of which are out of control1. These wildfires have burned 40,000 hectares of forest1 and are still spreading. Wildfires can be caused by a variety of causes, chief among which are lightning and drought. Canada experienced unusually high temperatures and dry weather this year, leading to forest wilting and flammability2, according to the Canadian Meteorological Agency. Climate change is also an important factor, as it makes wildfire seasons longer and more intense2. Canada Emergency Minister Bill Blair said it was one of the worst wildfires in Canadian history1.
Impact of Canadian wildfire smoke on the East Coast of the United States
Smoke from Canadian wildfires has drifted to the East Coast of the United States, causing serious distress to its residents. More than a dozen states, from New England to South Carolina, have issued air quality alerts1, according to the National Weather Service. The smoke turned the sky gray, the sun turned into a blood-red disk, and the city’s skyline disappeared into a haze.1 Many schools have cancelled outdoor activities and some flights have been forced to cancel or delay1. Officials and experts advise people to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid breathing fine particles in smoke, as they can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, affect cardiorespiratory function, and even trigger heart attacks and strokes2. Some people reported that they experienced uncomfortable symptoms such as headaches, coughs and wheezing2. The impact of wildfire smoke from Canadian wildfires on the East Coast of the United States is unprecedented and yet another warning of the climate crisis1.
Canadian wildfire smoke contains large amounts of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a tiny particle less than 2.5 microns in diameter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, causing health hazards2. According to EPA standards, when the concentration of PM2.5 in the air exceeds 35 micrograms per cubic meter, it will cause adverse effects on sensitive people (such as the elderly, children, asthma patients, etc.); Above 150 μg/m³, it causes adverse effects on all populations2. Under the influence of Canadian wildfire smoke, PM2.5 concentrations in many cities on the east coast of the United States far exceed this standard. For example, on the morning of June 7, New York City’s PM2.5 concentration reached 170 micrograms per cubic meter, the second highest in the world; Rochester’s PM2.5 concentration reached 200 micrograms per cubic meter, the highest in the United States; PM2.5 concentrations in coastal areas of Maryland and Delaware also exceeded 300 μg/m3 3. These high concentrations of PM2.5 not only reduce visibility and aesthetics, but also increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer2.
Canadian wildfire smoke has also taken a toll on traffic on the U.S. East Coast. Some flights were forced to be cancelled or delayed due to poor visibility and air pollution. For example, on June 7, flights at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports were delayed by an average of more than 30 minutes. In addition, some highways and bridges are also closed or speed limited because of smog. For example, on June 7, speed limits were imposed on both the George Washington Bridge and the Villazzono Bridge in New York City. Smoke can also affect the driver’s vision and judgment, increasing the risk of traffic accidents.
Canadian wildfire smoke also adversely affects the health of residents of the U.S. East Coast. Since the fine particles in the smoke can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, causing symptoms such as tearing, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing, some people choose to wear masks or glasses to protect themselves. However, these measures do not completely stop the intrusion of PM2.5, so experts recommend that people minimize outdoor activities, drink more water, use air purifiers and other ways to reduce the impact of smog. For those with respiratory diseases, heart disease, pregnant women, the elderly and children and other sensitive groups, they should pay more attention to avoid exposure to smoke and seek medical attention in time. Some hospitals and clinics have reported increased respiratory-related visits due to smog.
When will the Canadian wildfires be brought under control
When the Canadian wildfires will be brought under control is a concern for many. Natural Resources Canada’s forecast for wildfires in June will continue to be above normal, largely affected by ongoing drought and heat1. In July, wildfire potential will extend to Yukon, but will weaken from Quebec to the eastern edge of the Atlantic region1. Natural Resources Canada publishes monthly wildfire season forecasts, which are analysed based on the latest fire risk index and factors such as temperature and precipitation, and compared to the average climate of each region to map areas above or below average1. These projections are a long-term planning tool for wildfire resource managers and a reference for the public to understand wildfires. The Canadian government is taking a number of steps to respond to the wildfire crisis, including:
- Approved federal assistance requests from Alberta (2), Nova Scotia (1) and Quebec (1) on 10 May, 27 May, 31 May and 3 June to support their response to severe wildfire situations1.
- More than 600 U.S. firefighters and personnel, as well as water bombers and other firefighting equipment, were dispatched to assist Canada in fighting wildfires2.
- Emergency social services grants are provided to help wildfire-affected families and individuals cope with temporary housing, food, medical care, and more3.
- Cooperation with countries such as the United States and Mexico has been strengthened to share wildfire information and resources and improve emergency response capabilities.
When will the East Coast of the United States return to sunshine
When the east coast of the United States can return to clear depends on when the Canadian wildfires can be brought under control, as well as changes in wind direction and speed. According to the National Weather Service forecast, the east coast of the United States will still be affected by the smoke of Canadian wildfires on June 8 and 9, and air quality will continue to deteriorate. However, after June 10, with the arrival of a gust of cold air, the wind direction will change from southwest to northwest, which will help carry the smoke away from the east coast of the United States and bring some rain. By then, the East Coast of the United States is expected to return to clear skies and breathe fresh air. Until then, however, people still need to protect themselves and comply with official air quality warnings and recommendations.
This article analyzes where and why wildfires occurred in Canada, describes their impact on the East Coast of the United States, and discusses when fires can be brought under control and clear skies can be restored. The Canadian wildfires are a serious natural disaster that not only caused huge damage to Canada itself, but also brought air pollution and visual impairment to the east coast of the United States. The catastrophe also reflects the daunting challenge of climate change that requires global attention and action. We hope that the Canadian government and fire departments can extinguish wildfires as soon as possible to mitigate the impact of the disaster. We also hope that the residents of the East Coast of the United States will protect themselves and get through this difficult time. We look forward to the early restoration of the blue sky and white clouds on the east coast of the United States, presenting beautiful scenery.