Record wildfire emissions amid high temperatures and dry conditions, Copernicus reports

Violent forest fires hit new highs in spring

A forest blaze in Germany has continued to spread despite aerial firefighting efforts. AP
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High temperatures and dry weather have led to a rising number of wildfires in spring, leading to record emissions, new climate data has revealed.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, which tracks the intensity of wildfires and their emissions in the atmosphere, has reported an “unusually” high number of fires for the time of year.

It comes as fires were raging in Canada and Germany on Friday.

More than 18,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Canada as the military tackle more than 200 fires which have been caused by early summer weather.

Mark Parrington, CAMS Senior Scientist, said the data is an early warning for more fires to come.

“As the Northern Hemisphere is approaching summer, it is expected that the variables related to increasing wildfire risk will be exacerbated, such as high temperatures and especially drier conditions,” he said.

“Monitoring these variables, and the development of wildfires, is crucial to understanding the underlying causes and impacts on the atmosphere in order to take proper action.”

Last month, the European Commission announced that 28 planes and helicopters will be made available to help counter wild forest fires.

CAMS has tracked significant fire activity in different regions of Spain, affecting mainly Valencia with further fires in Asturias and Cantabria.

“As a result of these wildfires, Spain experienced the highest levels of emissions for this month on record, on par with those of wildfires in 2012,” it said.

“Having wildfires of these proportions so early in the year is an unusual occurrence. Copernicus's data has highlighted how the fire risk has been exacerbated by the high temperatures and dry conditions that affected the continent during the previous winter.”

The latest data also revealed that Central America experienced seasonal fires that were “slightly above average” between March and May.

The large-scale wildfires across western Canada have been raging throughout May 2023,” it said.

“CAMS daily total Fire Radiative Power data has been showing significant wildfire activity in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories since the beginning of May, with increasing activity further east in Ontario and Nova Scotia at the end of the month.

“CAMS have tracked significant emissions from these wildfires, with persistent long-range transport across North America and the Atlantic Ocean even reaching as far as Scandinavia and the Arctic Ocean.

“Canada has reached one of the highest emissions on record for the month of May, breaking the total records in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Nova Scotia.”

CAMS, which implements the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission with funding from the EU, has been monitoring wildfires and their emissions throughout the year.

Its system is based on satellite observations of active fires and Fire Radiative Power, a measure of fire intensity, to estimate emissions of carbon and a wide range of air pollutants that constitute smoke.

Updated: June 02, 2023, 2:04 PM