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  • Annika Santhanam

The Canada Wildfires - How They Started and What They Mean for the U.S.

Over the past few weeks, many states across the U.S. have issued air quality warnings as our environments experience harsh side effects from the wildfires tearing through Canada. Not only are Canada’s ecosystems in danger due to the fires, but the large amount of smoke produced by the fires has been funneled into the air of several states, posing severe health risks to those with compromised immune systems or lung functions.

Let’s take a look at the science behind why these wildfires happened, and how they are affecting a portion of the United States.

How Did the Wildfires Begin?

Wildfires usually occur when certain conditions are met, mainly when there is a source of ignition, hot and dry weather, and an abundance of dry plants. The source of ignition could be man-made, like a small campfire accidentally spreading throughout dry brush, or natural, such as a spreading fire caused by a lightning strike.

In Canada’s case, more than 400 fires have erupted, centered mainly in Quebec. The entire country has been caught in abnormally high temperatures over the past few weeks. Additionally, drought conditions caused by a lack of rain exacerbated the dry conditions that helped the spread of the fire. The fire was caused naturally, most likely by a lightning strike, which has become more common due to the hot and dry weather due to rising hot air. The increasingly warmer temperature is caused highly due to climate change, which has significantly worsened record high temperatures across Canada and even the United States. These wildfires have brought mass attention to the climate crisis and its effect on the safety of citizens across the world.

How Did This Affect the United States?

Due to a low pressure system located above Nova Scotia, Canada, air is moving counterclockwise near that area, propelling air south, which then picks up and carries smoke down from Canada into the eastern seaboard.

The abundance of smoke has created an alarming air quality level in Canada and the Eastern Seaboard. Exposure to this smoke can be detrimental for those with preexisting lung or immune system issues, but can also result in irritation of the throat and eyes in the short term for anyone exposed. Photos of New York receiving the worst of the smoke exposure show the city submerged in an orange haze. As of now, the air quality level has decreased compared to a week before as the wildfire situation starts to be inhibited.

It’s extremely important to be aware of the causes and effects of wildfires no matter where you live as the likelihood of wildfires increases as an effect of climate change. Hopefully, the affected areas of Canada are able to recover swiftly, and awareness of climate change’s role in this disaster may inspire change.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more articles!



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