February 24, 2024

Caused by wildfires in Canada: Silt has been unusually thick this year

Due to forest fires in Canada
This year there was unusually thick air in the Silt

By Laura Granich

Listen to the article

This audio version is artificially generated. More information | Send a comment

Climate change can trigger an unexpected series of reactions. A case in point is the devastating forest fires in Canada this year. Because the effects are noticeable even in remote areas – like the holiday island of Sylt.

In many parts of the world, forest fires are an annual occurrence. But 2023’s most violent and long wildfire season has surprised — and shocked — the world of experts several times over. Canada was particularly hard hit again this year. Over the past six years, North America’s vast country has experienced unprecedented wildfires. Some of their smoke rose up to 20 kilometers into the sky like a volcanic eruption.

It’s not the first time clouds of smoke have traveled from Canada to Europe this summer. In this way, forest fires on the continent, which are really far away, even affect air quality on German soil. For example, on Sylt, all peaks in fine dust concentration measured in the summer of 2023 were linked to Canadian wildfires.

June 29 in particular stands out in the federal environmental agency’s statistics. That day, smoke from the Quebec region reached Germany, a few days earlier it moved over New York and then traveled thousands of kilometers across the Atlantic. On the spa island of Sylt, of all places, it caused thick air and fine dust exceeded the limit.

A forest half the size of Germany burned

Overall, 2023 fell in Canada Canada Wildland Fire Information Service (CWFIS) 184,000 square kilometers of forest were consumed by the flames, half the size of Germany and twice as large as had ever been seen before.

And many human lives are at risk in this fire. For example, in August, the town of Yellowknife, with nearly 20,000 residents, had to evacuate for three weeks due to a large fire nearby. In early June, wildfires in the Canadian province of Quebec engulfed New York City and much of the US East Coast in thick smoke. Images of New York engulfed in smoke and bathed in orange light went around the world.

But it’s not just North America where people are talking about a year of so many environmental disasters: Wildfires worldwide have doubled this year and are burning for exceptionally long periods of time. According to a press release from Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) In August, Greece recorded Europe’s largest forest fire ever after weeks of scorching heat around the Mediterranean. At over 800 square kilometers, it was almost the size of Berlin. By comparison, June’s massive 700-hectare (seven square kilometer) wildfire in Zutterbach, Brandenburg, looks tiny. Also memorable was the dramatic wildfires on the Greek holiday island of Rhodes, which, as in Canada, forced the evacuation of around 19,000 people, including many holidaymakers.

CanadaFires and areas burn annually in Canada

This year there was a huge forest fire in the United States that became famous. Fueled by a tropical storm that swept past Hawaii, it destroyed large parts of the town of Lahaina on the second largest island of Maui in the state of Hawaii and claimed at least 115 lives.

Why are forest fires becoming more and more destructive?

There has been a clear trend of increasingly intense, hotter and more destructive forest fires in recent years, particularly in northern latitudes. Their smoke clouds always reach high in the atmosphere, sometimes reaching the lower stratosphere more than 12 kilometers above the ground. Until now it was known only through large volcanic eruptions. However, such extreme forest fire events have been increasing since the summer of 2017.

One reason for this may be a general shift in climate zones, as the boreal coniferous forests of the Canadian and Siberian taiga are adapted to cooler climates with long, snowy winters and short, cool summers.

However, increasing ocean heat waves in the northeast Pacific also play an important role. In particular, a recurring thermal anomaly along the northwest coast of North America, known in recent years as “The Blob” due to its unique shape, causes extreme dryness and heat in the north of the continent. Vastly underpopulated and not suitable for it.

In this context, on June 29, 2021, an incredible heat record of 49.6 degrees Celsius was set in Litton, Canada, located at the same latitude as Frankfurt am Main. On the same day, there was a huge forest fire and the small town was almost completely destroyed.

According to CWFIS, half of all fires in Canada are caused by lightning strikes – so they are primarily a weather phenomenon. Significantly faster warming of the Arctic, human activities at the site, targeted fires and poor forest management may also play a role.

Accelerates climate change

These developments have caused great concern to researchers. The destructive power of forest fires lasts for a long time and poses many risks to the global ecosystem. For example, forest fires in Canada alone released about 480 megatons of carbon, or 1,760 megatons of CO2. That’s more than three times Canada’s industrial emissions in 2021 and two-thirds of the EU’s total emissions.

Globally, CO2 emissions from forest fires reached 7,700 megatons CO2 (2,100 Mt carbon) by December 10, sandwiched between the two largest industrial emitters, the USA (approx. 4,800 Mt CO2, 2021) and China (approx. 12 Mt CO2, 2020). , 2021).

Global emissions from forest fires have previously declined steadily, reaching at least 1,500 metric tons of carbon by 2022. Global wildfire emissions ranked 8th out of 20 as of December 10th since the CAMS data series began in 2003, and has now broken that downward trend in 2023. Unfortunately, more intense forest fires are expected in the future due to increasing global warming.

Graphics: Laura Streising, Christoph Wolf

See also  Canada rejects South African genocide claim - January 12, 2024 at 10:13 pm