Smoke from wildfires in Canada is affecting air quality across the Northeast

Smoke from wildfires in Canada is affecting air quality across the Northeast
Smoke filled the sky in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday as an out-of-control fire spread through a suburban community quickly.

Smoke fills the sky in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday as an out-of-control fire spread through the suburban community quickly, sweeping through many homes and forcing local residents to evacuate. (Kelly Clark/The Canadian Press via AP)

A spate of early-season wildfires in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia has sent smoke spreading across the Northeast. News outlets from Massachusetts to southeastern Pennsylvania are reporting that residents can smell and see smoke in the sky, and experts warn that reduced air quality poses health risks to residents.


There are a total of 14 fires in Nova Scotia, the largest of which, which covers 43,095 acres, is “the largest wildfire in the province in recorded history,” according to the provincial government. The fires destroyed 200 homes and prompted evacuation orders for 16,000 residents, who are now threatens to spread to Halifaxthe provincial capital.

A map of Canada with red areas indicating the locations of wildfires.

Early bushfires in Nova Scotia caused thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes. (Yasin Demirci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Residents of neighboring New Brunswick also had to evacuate 400 homes. The province experienced an “unprecedented” 15 fires on Saturday, according to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs he said earlier this week.

“It’s been really heartbreaking,” Tim Houston, Nova Scotia’s premier, said at a news conference Wednesday.

Antiquities in the United States

Because of winds pushing the smoke to the south and west, air quality alerts have risen from the National Weather Service for southern Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

Massachusetts, especially in the Boston area, saw cloudy skies from wildfires on Wednesday. On that day, and again on Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a Code Orange air quality alert for Philadelphia and the suburbs. Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said Tuesday that the air quality would be unhealthy for sensitive groups, and a similar report was issued that day for Massachusetts.

“The health effects of exposure to particulate pollution can range from relatively minor (eg, eye and respiratory tract irritation) to more serious health effects (eg, exacerbation of asthma, heart failure, and early death),” According to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Smoke from the Tantallon bushfire billows over homes in nearby Bedford, Nova Scotia.

Smoke from the Tantallon wildfire billows over homes in nearby Bedford, Nova Scotia, on Sunday. (Eric Martin/Reuters)

The role of climate change

It is unusual to see such significant fire activity before the onset of summer in Nova Scotia in general Cool and humid climateHowever, rising temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions make the spring season warmer and exacerbate droughts.

Nova Scotia experienced below-average snow last winter, and in April it had less than half the average rainfall for that month — making it the driest April on record.

“What sets this situation apart is the time of year — the fact that it happens in May and it spreads so quickly,” said Anthony Farnellchief meteorologist for Canadian Global News outlet.

“Climate change is contributing to the variability,” Halifax Deputy Fire Chief Dave Meldrum said at a news conference Monday.

The risk of wildfires at the beginning of the season is expected to increase in the future as the climate continues to change.

“Temperatures have warmed in Canada as a whole, including eastern Canada, and we expect more warming to come. It is expected that there will be more warming in the future. Rising temperature is, yes, increasing fires in eastern Canada, too.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has urged governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and by 60% by 2035 to curb global warming.

From the highway, large plumes of smoke can be seen billowing in the distance from a wildfire raging in the upper Tantallon community in Nova Scotia.

Plumes of smoke rise from a wildfire in the upper Tantallon community in Nova Scotia. (Ben Britton/via Reuters)


Most of the fires are “very likely human-caused,” said Scott Tingley, Nova Scotia’s director of forest protection.

“Maybe a lot of it could have been prevented,” he said.

Dry, windy weather in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick fueled the fires this week. The prospect of rain Friday night is giving locals some hope for help, but experts have warned that lightning from thunderstorms could make matters worse by starting more fires when striking dry trees.

Nova Scotia has it Prohibited activity in wooded areaswith particular concern of any kind of burn.

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