By Zach Butler, Meteorologist Posted 1 year ago June 23, 2023

Eastern Canada Wildfires Continue to Burn

Numerous wildfires continue to burn in Eastern Canada, sending smoke into the atmosphere and degrading air quality for many Canadians. The wildfires still encompass >250,000 acres with many wildfires still out of control as gusty winds fuel and spread the flames. 

Here is a look at the wildfires in Ontario and Quebec Thursday evening, June 22nd sending heavy smoke into the atmosphere.

Satellite view of the wildfires (brown haze) and location of wildfires indicated by fire emojis. 

The OpenSnow smoke map is capturing the smoke and transport as well. Some of the smoke is affecting the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest region, but most is staying in Canada because of consistent west-to-east winds.

OpenSnow surface smoke map forecast for Saturday afternoon, June 24th. 

The latest forecast for this upcoming weekend will keep most smoke in Canada, with some smoke continuing to affect the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. The smoke will get closer to the US on Sunday, June 25th continuing to affect the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. For the Northeast, the smoke will stay to the north allowing you to have clean air for your outdoor adventures! 

Why have the wildfires continued? 

Canada’s weather pattern has changed little in the last few weeks as abnormally dry and warm conditions continue. This has been a major theme this spring and early summer, which has caused wildfires to blaze.  

The map below indicates departure from normal "heights" in the upper atmosphere at approximately 18,000 feet above sea level. Positive (+) anomalies indicate higher heights and stronger "ridging" than normal, and negative (-) anomalies indicate lower heights and more "troughing" than normal.

This ridging in the upper atmosphere has been the main story of Canadian weather throughout the spring and early summer. This has impacted conditions at the surface, which has brought little precipitation and warm temperatures. A look at the percentage of average precipitation over Eastern Canada shows below 40% of the average in the past 30 days (<0.1 - 0.4 inches of accumulated rain for wildfire affected areas in the past 30 days).

Percent of average precipitation in the past 30 days (beginning May 21, 2023) with locations of the largest wildfires highlighted. Graphic from the Government of Canada Agroclimate data. 

While the weather in Canada is not sending large amounts of smoke to the Eastern US as it did in early June, the wildfires are still burning strong as winds push the smoke from Quebec into the other Eastern Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. These areas of Canada do not have large population densities, but there are still many communities that are being hit hard with fire and dangerous air quality levels. 

When will this end?

There are growing signs of a storm system moving through Eastern Canada next week on Monday, June 26th through Wednesday, June 28th. This storm system is expected to move slowly and drop moderate amounts of rain (0.5-1.5 in) over a widespread area. This would be extremely beneficial to wildfire fighting operations and temporarily dampen the flames. 

Here is a look at the OpenSnow Forecast Anywhere feature for the town of Chibougamau, Quebec, which has experienced severe impacts from wildfires. 

There is good agreement between several numerical models and the OpenSnow blend for over 1 inch of rain Monday - Wednesday in this region of Canada. There is also a possibility of lightning with this storm system, which does bring a chance for the ignition of wildfires, but hopefully enough falling rain can prevent that.

Despite this good news, a look into the extended forecast shows a return to dry and hot conditions as we begin July. The weather pattern is expected to shift back to an upper-level ridge throughout Canada. In order to control these wildfires and put them out, consistent cooler air and rain need to occur, which does not look likely through July, indicated by numerical model guidance.

Graphics from the Environment and Climate Change Canada of precipitation probability (%) and temperature probability (%) for June, July, and August. Issued on May 31, 2023. 

The wildfire season is just getting underway with no clear signs of widespread extinguishing in Canada within the next few weeks. Keep checking back on our News articles for more updates this summer and keep a tab on the OpenSnow smoke map for the latest conditions. 

Zach Butler 

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About The Author

Zach Butler


Zach Butler is currently a PhD student in Water Resources Science at Oregon State University. He just finished his master's in Applied Meteorology at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Originally from Maryland, he has grown up hiking and skiing up and down the East Coast. When not doing coursework, he enjoys cooking and exploring the pacific northwest on his bike.

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