This has not been an easy spring. For weeks we have been hearing about massive forest fires burning out of control in the province, and now across the country. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, this is now the worst fire season this country has seen in modern history, with over 7.2 million hectares of boreal forest having been destroyed by flames. Add to this the humanitarian toll as thousands have been displaced by emergency evacuations from threatening fires. We are only half-way through the year, and the peak of our typical wildfire season is yet to come.
The Washington Post has described the smoke from the fires as “incredibly dense and foreboding.” A thick plume has once again descended into the United States, while another has crossed the Atlantic Ocean and is now being felt in Portugal on the European coast. Air quality index values for much of eastern Canada produced very unhealthy to hazardous conditions over this past weekend, with Montreal registering the worst air quality in the world on Sunday according to IQ Air. It was hard to ignore the yellow haze that settled over St-Jean festivities, or the unmistakeable smell of smoke.
A ban on open fires was lifted in the Montérégie, and as of Monday, the fire risk in the Haut-Saint-Laurent region was low. This is good news, but one can’t help but worry about what July might have in store. Environment and Climate Change Canada released its seasonal weather outlook for summer on June 15, which predicts higher-than-normal temperatures across much of the country until the end of August. It is a daunting prediction.
Environment Canada says climate change is resulting in more frequent and longer-lasting extreme weather events, such as heatwaves or intense rainfall. And, the government body is warning that Canada’s climate is warming at twice the global rate, particularly in the North. We are clearly already living the effects of climate change. And while we are all looking forward to the warmer months, it is important to remember this reality and continue to make adaptations to limit our environmental impact.