Fires in Canada: the fumes suffocate the northeast of the United States and reach the north of Europe
The fires in Canada continued Thursday to carry their smoke towards the east of the United States, and even as far as Norway, announced Friday June 9 the Norwegian institute for climate and environmental research (NILU). It is a rare episode of air pollution that affects more than a hundred million Americans and constitutes “a stark reminder of the consequences of climate change”according to US President Joe Biden.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, more than 111 million people were affected by air quality alerts in a large part of the northeastern United States.
In Norway, of “very weak” concentrations of smoke particles have been measured since Monday, in particular at the Birkenes station in the south of the country, researcher Nikolaos Evangeliou announced. The measures vary since according to the intensity of the fires, the orientation of the winds and the precipitation.
“We do not see a serious spike or significant increase (…) So we don’t see any environmental problem [en Norvège] notI no longer pose a serious health risk”he specified.
“It reminded me of 9/11”
In the United States, these fumes have had concrete consequences on the lives of the inhabitants of the east of the country, and on their health. The region is unaccustomed to this type of smoke, unlike the American West, where fires are common.
In Washington, the situation worsened on Thursday: the air pollution alert having passed a time to “violet” (“very bad for health”), its highest level before “brown” (“dangerous”), before being demoted to ” red “ (“unhealthy”) at the end of the afternoon.
An event celebrating LGBT+ pride month (“Pride Month”), which was to take place Thursday night at the White House outdoors, has been postponed, as has the baseball game which was to oppose the local team, the Nationals, to the Phoenix Diamondbacks.
The concern mainly concerns the health of fragile people, such as children, the elderly or those with heart or respiratory problems. Emergency room visits related to asthma attacks have increased in New York City, a spokesperson for the city’s health department said. But these ” few hundreds “ of patients do not overflow the services, he specified.
“I have never seen anything like this”Linda Juliano, 65, said as she accepted one of the millions of face masks distributed to New Yorkers. “It reminded me a lot of 9/11, to see the sky filled with smoke”judging the situation “agonizing”.
” Human warmth “
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Like the one in Washington, the Bronx and Central Park zoos have been closed, and New York public school students are scheduled to take their classes remotely on Friday. At New York and Philadelphia airports, flights suffered delays due to low visibility, the Civil Aviation Agency, the FAA, said.
Heatwaves and decreasing rainfall
Global warming exacerbates the risk of fires and their intensity. The increase in temperature, the multiplication of heat waves and the drop in precipitation in places represent an ideal combination for their development.
Although no study evaluating the link between the current fires in Quebec and climate change has yet been conducted, “the conditions we see in Canada are in line with the warnings of climate scientists”noted Thursday Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN Secretary General.
Citing both smoke from the fires and an upsurge in flooding across the United States, White House spokesman Andrew Bates slammed the Republican opposition, which he said “adheres to debunked conspiracy theories, denying the existence and nature of climate change”.
Joe Biden, who spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, promised to help fight the fires.
800,000 hectares affected
The fire season in Canada this year, which is just beginning, will be “probably the worst in history” of the country, with “Immense consequences here in the United States”warned the American president.
With nearly 800,000 hectares affected by the fires, according to the authorities, Quebec is experiencing an already historic season. Twice as many fire starts have been recorded since January compared to the average at this time over the past ten years.
Thursday, the French-speaking province still lists more than 150 active fires, including nearly 90 out of control. New reinforcements – from the United States, France or Portugal – are expected in the coming days.
The situation remains worrying in several regions, according to Stéphane Caron, prevention and communications coordinator with the Society for the Protection of Forests against Fire in Quebec. “We are only at the very beginning of this fire season”he worried.
The risks of new outbreaks of fires are always significant: in the western part of Quebec, they are considered “extreme” by the authorities. These blazes are high intensity and fast-spreading, so very difficult for firefighters to stop, they explain.