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Large-Scale Wildfires in Canada


New York City’s air quality is currently ranked among the worst in the world due to drifting smoke rising from wildfires in Canada.


GS I- Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is wildfire?
  2. What causes Wildfire?
  3. What is causing the wildfires in Canada?
  4. How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?

What is wildfire?

  • A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that burns in the wildland vegetation, often in rural areas. 
  • Wildfires can burn in forests, grasslands, savannas, and other ecosystems, and have been doing so for hundreds of millions of years.
  • They are not limited to a particular continent or environment.
What causes Wildfire?
  • Wildfires require right climatic conditions, burnable fuel and a spark.
  • Rising temperatures suck moisture out of plants, creating an abundance of dry fuel.
  • Drought and high heat can kill plants and dry out dead grass, and other material on the forest floor that fuel the fire once it starts sweeping through a patch.
  • While dry vegetation is the burnable fuel that serves as kindling for fires, the spark is sometimes caused by lightning, at other times by accident or recklessness of the local population.

What is causing the wildfires in Canada?

  • Lightning is a major cause: The majority of forest fires in Canada have been caused by lightning strikes.
  • Long-Continuing-Currents (LCC): Laboratory experiments and field observations have shown that prolonged electrical currents in lightning, known as Long-Continuing-Currents (LCC), have the potential to ignite fires.
  • Increased risk from LCC lightning: An increase in LCC lightning over land has led to a higher risk of lightning-ignited wildfires.
  • Human activities: Human activities, such as accidental fires or negligence, contribute to the occurrence of forest fires.
  • Low snowfall and dry spring: Some analysts attribute the recent wildfires to low snowfall during winter and an unusually dry spring in Atlantic Canada.
  • Influence of North Atlantic Ocean: Nova Scotia province, influenced by the North Atlantic Ocean, typically has higher humidity and more moderate temperatures. However, this year, the region experienced low rainfall and a late-May heat wave, exacerbating the wildfire situation.

How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?

  • While fire poses a direct risk to people’s life and property, wildfire smoke, and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns, can also affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  • For those already suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses, there is a risk of flare-ups.

Source: Indian Express

December 2023