Fri. May 24th, 2024

Why no snow causes a “early” forest fire season

By ki0nk Apr17,2024
News

In accordance with the estimates, the wildfire season might be just as “catastrophic” as it was the previous year. A number of indications point to the beginning of the season. What are some ways that we might improve our preparation?

In order to get a better understanding of the situation, Le Devoir had a meeting with Philippe Gachon, a researcher at the Center for the Study and Simulation of Climate on a Regional Scale at the University of Quiame. Jasmine Legendre is the one who gathered the comments.

The province of Quebec was characterized by the numerous forest fires that destroyed the region in the previous year. A record-breaking amount of land, around 4.5 million hectares, was consumed by fire. What are the chances of such a catastrophic season occurring in 2024?

 

During the same time span, we are already dealing with a warmer context. For the thirteenth month in a row, we have now smashed the record for the highest temperature experienced. During the previous year, we experienced an early spring, particularly in the northern regions, which resulted in the snow melting very quickly and also meant that there was no precipitation for several days or even weeks.

Snow plays a very significant role, particularly for the people living in the eastern part of the country, and consequently for Quebec and the Maritimes. In the event that it melts, which occurs four days after there has been no precipitation, the beginning of the fire season is officially declared. It is possible that the snow that has melted will penetrate the ground and cause it to become moist, which will postpone the possibility of flames occurring.

On the other hand, the soil will dry out if there is no precipitation for a very long time. In Quebec and Canada, the substrate, the leaves, and the needles that stayed under the snow became dried during the winter. This is a phenomenon that is unique to these two regions. When there is no precipitation and the snow has melted, it is a fuel that is incredibly combustible.

And the events that took place the year before were as follows: there was no precipitation, snow began to fall prematurely, temperatures were extremely high, and a series of storms occurred at the end of May and the beginning of June. According to my recollection, there were perhaps 120 fires that broke out within a span of ten days or a week, which is a significant number.

To witness such a region that was consumed by forest fires, you will need to travel back in time more than two hundred years.

In this particular year, there was hardly any snow… Am I in a scenario that is comparable to that of 2023?

That was the time when we had more snow. This is the reason why I urge that we exercise caution in the year 2024. The operation of surveillance is required. I can honestly say that there is a lot less snow on the ground. Furthermore, this is true across the great majority of Canada. So, there is no snow… as well as the fact that spring has arrived early.

It is also important to keep in mind that the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean has increased in comparison to the previous year. The phenomenon of persistence, which is characterized by atmospheric blockage that favors hot and dry weather that continues to persist, is accentuated as a result of this.

Taking all of this into consideration, it is possible that the fire season will be longer than it was the previous year, but it may also be more disastrous.

Are there regions of the country that require a higher level of surveillance with greater attention?

In a word, yes. After that came British Columbia, which got a significantly lower amount of snowfall compared to the previous year. Moreover, there are beginning to be issues with water shortages in Alberta, and they are spreading all the way to Manitoba. In addition to the fact that the summer before last was dry, there was also no snowfall, which is making it difficult for certain localities to obtain water. On the bright side, March was significantly colder than usual in the Western region, particularly in Alberta. Given that the fire season could have begun considerably earlier, it has slowed down a little bit from its previous pace.

During the beginning of April, we experienced a snowstorm in Quebec, which provided us with a little reprieve; nevertheless, the snowstorm primarily impacted the southern region and the Gaspésie region. When compared to the typical snowfall that we are accustomed to experiencing during this time of year, the northern region continues to have a deficiency in snowfall.

What methods can we use to forecast and prepare for these forest fires?

We must begin by focusing on raising awareness and educating people. The previous year, we came to the realization that the people or municipalities may not have been paying attention to the fact that there is a coniferous forest in close proximity to dwellings or communities. mostly due to the fact that these pine trees are incredibly flammable, and we witnessed the effects that this had on the amount of infrastructures that were destroyed. For the purpose of protecting buildings, there are coatings that are obviously less combustible than shingles, for instance.

The next step is to make the predictability better. If we are able to foresee conditions of blockage and atmospheric circulation that remain persistent before they arrive or as they are building, that is of tremendous assistance. This can be accomplished very early on in the season. The SOPFEU is able to plan its resources, its quota, its necessary equipment, and its target sites as a result of this.

It is possible for us to save millions of dollars if we are able to make preparations as soon as we become aware that a certain season is likely to be challenging.

Would it be possible for us to take ideas from other countries?

Indeed. A significant amount of resources are being invested by the Europeans in order to enhance the number of helicopters, air tankers, or what we refer to as Canadairs.

In order to ensure total civil security, you should not only equip yourself to be able to intervene more effectively but also provide training. One thing that we have not done nearly enough of in Quebec and Canada is to share the knowledge and experiences that we have gained from the events that occurred the previous year. It was in November that my coworkers from the Canadian Forest Service collaborated with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to accomplish this endeavour. We meteorologists, on the other hand, are never given the opportunity to discuss the current situation of the climate or the reasons why we are more concerned this year.

The final component is that the Europeans have succeeded in implementing resource sharing that is incredibly efficient. It has been brought to the attention of the American people that the state of California is obligated to communicate its experiences to both other states and the federal government.

Over the course of the past few years, we have gained some knowledge on forest fires. As an illustration, when we have big areas that have been burned, massive clouds known as pyrocumulus can form. This is because the burning of the forest generates a great deal of heat and humidity. Clouds like these have the potential to bring about thunderstorms, which will then bring about further flames. The study that is being conducted in Canada, on the other hand, is extremely limited.

Are we unable to properly suppress forest fires due to a lack of available manpower?

Indeed, for a number of reasons. To begin, the government of Quebec has provided a response to a number of the requests made by SOPFEU for telephone towers in the northern regions. Better communication capabilities have been implemented by them currently. It will be required to increase the number of firemen who are stationed on the ground in order to meet the current demand.

But in addition to that, it requires us to make preparations to buy some equipment. During the 1960s and 1970s, the majority of our air tankers were manufactured. The previous year, several of them remained grounded because they were undergoing maintenance. Therefore, we require a larger fleet. Furthermore, there is a severe lack of pilots throughout the world. We have a responsibility to educate pilots who are able to operate in environments such as these.

Due to the fact that UQAM provides a significant amount of training in atmospheric science, SOPFEU is interested in acquiring knowledge in meteorology. In the region that is dominated by the French language, there are two universities in Quebec that offer academic programs in meteorology. Increasing this capacity to teach specialists in the subject of weather and forest fires would require additional resources so that it could be accomplished.

Throughout the course of the past year, there has been a great deal of misinformation that has been spread about forest fires… To what extent does the climate change have an impact?

The fact that we are experiencing forest fires that are twice as catastrophic as they were in the past can be attributed to climate change, which is causing currently occurring warming. Moreover, the likelihood of getting this type will increase in proportion to the degree to which the temperature continues to rise.

What are you going to be paying particular attention to during the next few weeks?

Temperature anomalies. This year, we are keeping an eye on whether or not spring in the north is as warm and active as it was the previous year. In addition to it, precipitation was also present. For the time being, we have a great number of systems that are moving through the southern region, although there haven’t been many in the northern region. Furthermore, Hydro-Québec is concerned about the low water levels in the reservoirs of James Bay and other reservoirs such as those. Specifically, this is a problem for the boreal forest.

We are aware that there are fires that are still burning in the ground, and they date back to the previous year. This is another factor that we will need to keep an eye on. Approximately thirty would be found in the Western region; however, we are unable to confirm this due to the fact that these flames are not visible to us. As an illustration, there might be several in the vicinity of Lebel-sur-Quévillon here.

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By ki0nk

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