Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada - wildfire

Smoke from Canadian wildfires forecast to reach Norway

Image credit: London School of Economics

The smoke from Canadian wildfires that has enveloped parts of the US and Canada in a thick haze is expected to pour into Norway on Thursday (8 June), officials said.

Scientists with the Norwegian Climate and Environmental Research Institute (NILU) used a forecast model to predict how the smoke will travel through the atmosphere.

The smoke has already moved over Greenland and Iceland since 1 June and observations in southern Norway have recorded increasing concentrations of aerosolised particles, the independent research institution said.

“We may be able to see some haze or smell smoke,” Nikolaos Evangeliou, a senior NILU researcher, said. “However, we do not believe that the number of particles in the air here in Norway will be large enough to be harmful to our health.”

The US east coast has experienced hazardous levels of pollution from the wildfires burning in Canada.

The smoke has affected millions of people, held up flights at major airports, postponed baseball games and prompted people to fish out pandemic-era face masks.

US National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Ramsey said the weather system driving the smoke out “will probably be hanging around at least for the next few days”.

Smoke from the wildfires has been pouring into US east coast and mid-west states, covering the capitals of both nations in an unhealthy haze.

Canada has asked other countries for help fighting the more than 400 blazes nationwide, which have already displaced 20,000 people. Air quality has reached what the US rates as hazardous levels of pollution in central New York and north-eastern Pennsylvania.

The massive swathes of unhealthy air are extending as far as North Carolina and Indiana, affecting millions of people. Officials in affected regions have urged people to stay indoors.

Canadian officials say this is shaping up to be the nation’s worst wildfire season ever. It started early on drier-than-usual ground and accelerated very quickly, exhausting firefighting resources across the country, according to fire and environmental officials.

Smoke from the blazes in various parts of the country has been lapping into the US since May, but has intensified with a recent spate of fires in Quebec, where around 100 fires are considered to be out of control.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the province currently has the capacity to fight about 40 fires and the usual reinforcements from other provinces have been strained by conflagrations in Nova Scotia and elsewhere.

Jennifer Kamau, a spokesperson for the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, said more than 950 firefighters and other personnel have already arrived from the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and that more will be arriving soon.

In Washington, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden has sent more than 600 firefighters and equipment to Canada. His administration has contacted some US governors and local officials about providing assistance, she said.

While Eastern Quebec got some rainfall on Wednesday, Montreal-based Environment Canada meteorologist Simon Legault said that no significant rain is expected for days in the remote areas of central Quebec, where the wildfires are more intense.

Zach Taylor, a meteorologist at the US National Weather Service, said the current weather pattern in central and eastern US is essentially funnelling in the smoke.

Taylor predicted that some rain should help clear the air somewhat in the north-east and mid-Atlantic either this weekend or early next week, though more thorough relief will come from containing or extinguishing the fires, he added.

In the US, New York governor Kathy Hochul warned the public to “prepare for this over the long haul”. New York City mayor Eric Adams told residents of the country's most populous city to limit outdoor activities, while parks officials closed beaches as smoke smudged out the skyline.

The Federal Aviation Administration paused some flights bound for LaGuardia Airport and slowed planes to Newark Liberty and Philadelphia because the smoke was limiting visibility. It also contributed to delayed arrivals at Dulles International Airport outside Washington.

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