Canada's 2nd Largest Fire on Record Spreading Smoke to Europe

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:14 PM GMT on July 13, 2013

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A massive fire burning in northern Quebec is Canada's second largest fire since fire records began in 1959, according to the Canadian Forest Service. The fire was more than twice the size of Rhode Island on Tuesday--1,621,000 acres. Called the Eastmain fire, the near-record blaze was ignited by lightning on May 25, and was burning along a 100-km front near the east shore of James Bay by the village of Eastmain. At times, the fire spread at 19 mph (30 kph). The fire cut power to Montreal's subway system and to 10% of the population of Quebec (500,000 customers) on July 4, when smoke from the fire ionized the air by key hydroelectric power lines, causing a cascade failure.


Figure 1. On July 4, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of wildfires burning in western Quebec near James Bay. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fire. The Eastmain fire, which became the 2nd largest fire since 1959 in Canada at 1.6 million acres, is at the upper left of the image, just east of James Bay. Other fires near Nemiscau, Quebec (about 150 - 200 km to the southeast of Eastmain) are also burning, but these patches are "only" 120,000 - 200,000 acres. MODIS also observed smoke from the fires moving across the Atlantic Ocean on July 5, July 6, and July 7. By July 8, smoke was drifting over Scandinavia. Image credit: NASA.

The largest fire in Canadian history was the 2,119,000 acre fire that burned in 1979 in the Northwest Territories. For comparison, the total acreage burned by wildfires in the U.S. as of July 4, 2013 was 1.9 million acres, so the Eastmain fire by itself has burned almost as large an area. The fire's spread is being limited by the Opinaca Reservoir on its east, and by areas burned in 2002 to the south. The fire spread rapidly last week into a patch along its northern and northeastern sides that burned in 1989 (click hereto see the very impressive spread of the fire between 16:45 UTC and 18:22 UTC last Thursday from the Suomi NPP VIIRS shortwave IR instrument; look on the northeastern front of the fire, which is inside the former 1989 fire patch--it spreads extraordinarily rapidly at approximately 10 mph.) While cool and relatively wet weather is expected in Quebec during the coming week, keeping fire danger low, there is speculation by some Canadian fire experts that the Eastmain fire will burn the entire summer unless there are a significant number of consecutive rainy days.


Figure 2. Dr. Jason Box extracts a core sample from the Greenland Ice Sheet on July 9, 2013, during the DarkSnow Project. The core will be analyzed to determine if smoke from wildfires is contributing to melting of the ice sheet by darkening it.

Canadian fire smoke reaches Europe
Smoke from this summer's fires in Quebec have crossed the Atlantic and reached Scandanavia, according to ScienceDaily.com. The smoke also passed over Greenland when the crowd source-funded DarkSnow Project was taking samples of the Greenland ice. The DarkSnow Project was designed to see if forest fires are significantly darkening the Greenland Ice Sheet, contributing to melt.

Climate change and fire suppression in Canada
Fire suppression policies are different in Canada than in the U.S. In areas where these fire are burning, there is no direct fire suppression unless fire is near villages and hydroelectric facilities. Nevertheless, fire suppression costs $500 million per year in Canada. "In areas with high timber or other values, a full fire-suppression response is used in attempts to control fires as quickly as possible. In areas with low values at risk to fire, a modified fire-suppression response, which attempts to control fires in a limited way, is usually used: isolated values threatened by fire are protected, or the fire is simply monitored. While only 5% of the fires detected during 1990–2004 received a modified response, they accounted for about 60% of the area burned " (Hirsch et al., 2006.)
 
Fire suppression efficiency depends on many factors, including fire danger, the size at which the fire is attacked, and the number of fires already burning. According to Cummings (2005) and Martell and Sun (2008), fire suppression can significantly reduce area burned in boreal forests. Fire suppression can reduce area burned by means of initial attack, which reduces the number of large fires. Consequently, fire suppression agencies are efficient when the fire danger is low and when there is not that much fire already burning, a situation that will be less common in the near future. For Ontario, Podur and Wotton (2010) projected "a doubling of area burned in the Intensive and Measured fire management zones of Ontario by the decade of 2040, and an eightfold increase in area burned by the end of the 21st century" due to climate change (IPCC A2 scenario.) Fires that are too intense to control will overwhelm the fire management system and cause major increases in area burned.

Another study (Boulanger et al. 2013) predicted for 2040 in eastern Canada a 2.2- and 2.4-fold increase in the number of fires and the annual area burned, respectively, mostly as a result of an increase in extreme fire-weather normals and drought. As extreme fire danger would occur later in the fire season on average, the fire season would shift slightly later (5–20 days) in the summer. However, if broadleaf species become more common in this area as a result of climate change, this may offset the climate change impact on drought, as broadleaf trees are less flammable than coniferous trees (Girardin et al. 2013).


Video 1. Maxime Duperré, traveling in a truck near Nemiscau, Quebec, took this video of one of the massive fires burning in Quebec this July.

References
 Boulanger, Y., Gauthier, S., Gray, D. R., Le Goff, H., Lefort, P., Morissette, J. 2013. Fire regime zonation under curent and future climate over eastern Canada. Ecol. Appl. 23: 904-923. 
 
Cumming, S.G. 2005. Effective fire suppression in the boreal forests. Can. J. For. Res. 35: 772-786.
 
Girardin, M.P., Ali, A. A., Carcaillet, C., Blarquez, O., Hély, C., Terrier, A., Genries, A., Bergeron, Y. 2013. Vegetation limits the impact of a warm climate on boreal wildfires. New Phytologist (In Press).
 
Hirsch, K.G.; Fuglem, P., Technical Coordinators. 2006. Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy: background syntheses, analyses, and perspectives. Can. Counc. For. Minist., Nat. Resour. Can., Can. For. Serv., North. For. Cent., Edmonton, AB.
 
Martell, D. and Sun, H. 2008. The impact of fire suppression, vegetation, and weather on the area burned by lightning-caused fires in Ontario. Can. J. For. Res. 38:1547-1563.
 
D. Podur, J. and Wotton, B. M. 2010. Will climate change overwhelm fire management capacity ? Ecological Modelling 221:1301-1309

A tough year for natural disasters in Canada
This summer's huge fires in Quebec have been caused by what is being called the driest summer in 40 years in the James Bay region. However, other portions of Canada have received record rains that have triggered two of the most damaging floods in Canadian history. The first of these floods hit Calgary, Alberta in mid-June, causing $3.8 billion in damage--the most expensive flood ever to hit Canada, and the second most expensive natural disaster of any kind. And on July 8, Toronto was hit with its heaviest 1-day rainfall on record, with a preliminary damage estimate by an official from the Insurance Bureau of Canada of $600 million, which would make it the 4th costliest flood in Canadian history. Here are the top five most damaging floods in Canada, with the non-bold faced entries taken from EM-DAT (unadjusted for inflation):

1) $3.8 billion, June 2013, Calgary, Alberta
2) $0.8 billion, May 2011, St. Andrew, Manitoba
3) $0.7 billion, July 1996, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, Quebec
4) $0.6 billion, July 2013, Toronto, Ontario
5) $0.4 billion, June 2005, Alberta

The Atlantic is quiet
The Atlantic is relatively quiet. A small non-tropical area of low pressure is developing near the coast of Alabama along a stalled-out cold front, and the remains of Chantal are moving northwards towards the North Carolina coast. Neither of these areas appears to be of concern, and in their 8 am EDT Saturday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave both of these areas a 10% chance of development into a tropical depression or tropical storm by Monday. None of the reliable computer models are predicting development of of anything in the Atlantic over the next seven days. If conditions remain quiet, my next post will be on Monday.

Jeff Masters

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Welcome to Florida , the Rainshine state !
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Quoting 629. Bluestorm5:
About time... should be interesting as the case could go toward either direction. I think he's guilty, but there's not enough proof to prove that (although I haven't watch enough case to be sure of that statement).

Going back on topic after this post.
He's not guilty.Link
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George Zimmerman , Not Guilty !
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Quoting 632. BahaHurican:
Actually Sandy's track was pretty sane.

Sane is a melodramatic term as someone pointed out earlier, but what other storms have come directly onshore (90º angle) in New Jersey?
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630


Nvm...

Think that comment might starts an argument so I took it down.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630
Not guilty. no comment.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630
Quoting 456. Grothar:


I would hardly call this a mansion.


No... more like a palace...
Quoting 507. Levi32:
Well, if people think Sandy's track was weird, imagine how much the media would be freaking out if any of these hurricane tracks happened today:



And these were all within the last 120 years. Tell me again about 1 in 700 year tracks?
Actually Sandy's track was pretty sane.

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Quoting 628. sar2401:

Where did you get this information? The only thing I can find is that the jury asked from some clarification on manslaughter.


CNN and other news sources, lol.

CNN's story on verdict.

Hopefully I'm done being off topic.
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Not guilty.
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Quoting 619. GeoffreyWPB:
Way off topic...Verdict reached in Zimmerman case.
About time... should be interesting as the case could go toward either direction. I think he's guilty, but there's not enough proof to prove that (although I haven't watch enough case to be sure of that statement).

Going back on topic after this post.
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Quoting 621. Grothar:



EDIT: Texas not getting a drop of rain.

It comes down and hovers.
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Quoting 619. GeoffreyWPB:
Way off topic...Verdict reached in Zimmerman case.
Thanks, even being off topic.
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Quoting 619. GeoffreyWPB:
Way off topic...Verdict reached in Zimmerman case.

im watching that too!
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Quoting 606. Grothar:
Looks like that ULL in the Atlantic has its eyes on the Bahamas and Florida.

Nice and round too.
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Quoting 609. Grothar:
More rain moving in around the entire Gulf area. Even Texas is getting a little




EDIT: Texas not getting a drop of rain.
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Quoting 611. pottery:

I think it would depend upon whether it was plastic buckets or the old-fashioned galv. ones.
The galv. ones are more noteworthy.
Louder, too.

So a heavy downpour might be standing under a tin roof versus a regular downpour as just standing under a shingled roof.
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Way off topic...Verdict reached in Zimmerman case.
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Quoting 609. Grothar:
More rain moving in around the entire Gulf area. Even Texas is getting a little


Emphasize little.
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Quoting 603. pottery:

Yeah, I was seeing that. Heavy !

In the meantime, a Blob over Africa is producing some intense convection.
Something to watch next week ??


You mean this little thing??? Yes, I do believe it is worth watching (carefully)

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Quoting 507. Levi32:
Well, if people think Sandy's track was weird, imagine how much the media would be freaking out if any of these hurricane tracks happened today:

And these were all within the last 120 years. Tell me again about 1 in 700 year tracks?

I don't understand. Because other systems had strange tracks, Sandy's path wasn't 1-in-700 years? If that's what you mean, could you expand on it a bit for me?
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Quoting 609. Grothar:
More rain moving in around the entire Gulf area. Even Texas is getting a little

There is NO rain in Texas, just cloud cover.
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Could we have some gulf development? hmmmm...
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630
Quoting 604. gator23:
Hey Gro is that TUTT going to cause problems? Looking uppity

Link


It could bring more rain. Hasn't worked down to the surface yet.
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Quoting bappit:

Would you rate raining buckets as more rain than a downpour?

I think it would depend upon whether it was plastic buckets or the old-fashioned galv. ones.
The galv. ones are more noteworthy.
Louder, too.
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Luckily, this tornado doesn't sounds like a total destructive one, but it's damaging enough for folks in Canada.

@SeanSchoferTVN 8m
At least 1 mobile home totally leveled. Many roofs missing, large trees down, power poles snapped.


Judging from two pictures in Hartney (about 10 miles to ESE of Pipestone) and the tweet above, I'll say this tornado is likely EF2 to low level EF3.
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More rain moving in around the entire Gulf area. Even Texas is getting a little

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Quoting 599. floridaT:
its amazing how much it can rain here in so fl and not totally flood , the ground peculates so well
Cannot say the same for areas of Northern Virginia from Thursday night into Friday morning. Some places here got nearly half a foot of rain during that time. 


You know, maybe that rain dance for myself wad a bad idea.....
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Quoting 586. mikatnight:
In weather related news (yes, I do upon occasion talk about the weather), despite the deluge south of me in Ft. Lauderdale (Hi Grothar!), I have collected in my rain gauge (since 7am EDT) 0.85" - and it's been raining nonstop since around 12:30 this afternoon. Big drops, but widely spaced steady precip, great for the vegetation here near the coast - not so good for folks west of I95, and more so west of Turnpike. When I was out in Loxahatchee...RPB earlier today it rained buckets. We haven't had that type of rain event here since June 1st (2.3").


Would you rate raining buckets as more rain than a downpour?
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Looks like that ULL in the Atlantic has its eyes on the Bahamas and Florida.

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Quoting floridaT:
its amazing how much it can rain here in so fl and not totally flood , the ground peculates so well

Very peculiar indeed.
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Hey Gro is that TUTT going to cause problems? Looking uppity

Link
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Quoting Grothar:



Heavy rain and thunderstorms ALL day. Some places nearly 10 inches of rain.

Yeah, I was seeing that. Heavy !

In the meantime, a Blob over Africa is producing some intense convection.
Something to watch next week ??
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Quoting 599. floridaT:
its amazing how much it can rain here in so fl and not totally flood , the ground peculates so well



?
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Another Canadian town, Hartney, Manitoba, is damaged by tornado as well. Someone took this picture near Hartney. This used to be a cattle shed and it look like EF1 to EF3 damage.

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Quoting 596. pottery:

It certainly did.
I looked at the numbers a long time thinking ''heh, there's something wrong here'' and was about to blame the beverage at hand.

Thanks for clearing that up.

95F today, narry a cloud in the sky (or anywhere else for that matter) and a very pretty pink sunset in the haze.

All's well, that ends well. (someone said that once...)



Heavy rain and thunderstorms ALL day. Some places nearly 10 inches of rain.
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Quoting 587. avthunder:
Still heavy rain in northeast Broward. Some street flooding. Pool has overflowed the top at my house. Thunder has quieted down though.
its amazing how much it can rain here in so fl and not totally flood , the ground peculates so well
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Quoting 403. oceanspringsMS:


I have read the James Lee Burke book and it is very good as most of his books are. He has another one written around Katrina, but I can't think of the name. A good hurricane movie, that isn't a "disaster" type movie, is Beast of the Southern Wild.
I've actually read a couple of the books on barba's list...

Interesting site.

Quoting 423. hydrus:
I wonder if the Mayaimi,s are distant relatives of the Maya..My theory is that the ancient Florida tribes came from Central and South America.
Quite possible, this last part is... the Arawaks living in the Bahamas when Colombus arrived had migrated up the Antillean chain from S America, and we have more recent evidence of how easy it is to cross the FL straits from Cuba. In the early 1800s Seminole Indians who settled the west coast of Andros made their crossing via canoe, so travel both ways is definitely possible. As to the relationship between the Miami Indians and the Maya - well, that could likely be easily determined by DNA analyis.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Reports coming out from Canada that Pipestone, Manitoba was heavily damaged or destroyed by a tornado. People saying everything is gone and flattened. Only few tweets about the event so far, but TornadoVideo.net (TVN) are going there. No picture of damage so far.

UhOh !
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Quoting Grothar:


Perked you up, didn't it? Old joke between tornadude and me.

It certainly did.
I looked at the numbers a long time thinking ''heh, there's something wrong here'' and was about to blame the beverage at hand.

Thanks for clearing that up.

95F today, narry a cloud in the sky (or anywhere else for that matter) and a very pretty pink sunset in the haze.

All's well, that ends well. (someone said that once...)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Reports coming out from Canada that Pipestone, Manitoba was heavily damaged or destroyed by a tornado. People saying everything is gone and flattened. Only few tweets about the event so far, but TornadoVideo.net (TVN) are going there. No picture of damage so far.
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Quoting 592. pottery:

Err, wha' ??


Perked you up, didn't it? Old joke between tornadude and me.
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remember Andrew an A storm but not till the end of August
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.