Record May wildfire emissions in British Columbia mark start of Canadian wildfire season

May 17, 2024
wildfire smoke

Highest May wildfire emissions in 22 years

As reported by Copernicus, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) has been closely monitoring the onset of the Canadian wildfire season.

Wildfire emissions in British Columbia have reached the highest levels for May in the 22-year history of the CAMS Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) data set.

The first significant wildfire was detected on 9 May 2024 in northern British Columbia.

Many of these fires are believed to be caused by the surface reignition of holdover fires, complicating the situation further.

High wildfire emissions across Canada

Early May has seen unusually high wildfire emissions in Canada, with several large fires primarily in British Columbia and some in neighboring provinces and territories.

As of 16 May, estimated wildfire carbon emissions for Canada stand at 15 megatonnes, with British Columbia alone recording slightly above 12 megatonnes.

These figures surpass twice the previous highest emissions recorded in May 2023, marking one of the highest totals in the past 22 years.

Fire danger forecasts indicate a high risk of wildfires across northern British Columbia, parts of Alberta, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories in the coming days.

Impact and monitoring efforts

CAMS Senior Scientist Mark Parrington commented: “Following the highly impactful wildfires that burned across Canada in 2023, the scale and intensity of the current fires in British Columbia is highly concerning so early in the season.

“The scale of the ongoing fires, and their impacts on local communities and the atmosphere, underscore the urgent need for continuous monitoring and assessment.”

CAMS provides real-time data on the location, intensity, and estimated emissions of wildfires globally.

This information includes tracking smoke transport and its impacts on atmospheric composition.

The data is freely available and can aid decision-making processes for citizens, businesses, and stakeholders in related sectors.

Data availability and usage

The detailed information provided by CAMS is a crucial resource for understanding and responding to wildfire events.

The service’s data helps monitor the progression and impacts of wildfires, offering valuable insights into their behavior and effects on air quality and climate.

The availability of this data supports informed decision-making and preparedness strategies, enhancing the ability of various sectors to respond effectively to wildfire threats.

CAMS continues to play a vital role in providing essential information to mitigate the adverse impacts of wildfires.

FSJA comment

The record-breaking wildfire emissions in British Columbia mark a concerning start to the Canadian wildfire season.

The data provided by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service highlights the severity and early onset of the fires, emphasizing the need for vigilant monitoring and preparedness.

The significant increase in emissions compared to previous years underscores the challenges posed by these natural disasters.

The freely accessible data from CAMS is invaluable for various sectors, enabling better decision-making and response strategies.

Continuous assessment and updated information are crucial in addressing the ongoing wildfire threat and its impact on communities and the environment.

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