Wildfires in the Western US and Canada
It is well documented that wildfires have been plaguing the western United States all summer. In this current satellite image collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite on September 22, 2012 the fires in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota can be seen. The actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red.
However, the difference is in this image, which extends its view into Canada, it is obvious that Canada has also been suffering this summer with an outbreak of wildfires across at least three of its provinces. In British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, the MODIS instrument has detected wildfires in each province.
British Columbia has seen at least 1,522 separate wildfires start since April 1, 2012 which has affected 171,493 acres (69,401 hectares). Although this is a near record year for wildfires in the western U.S., this is actually a below average year for fires in British Columbia.
Albert province has had 1,482 wildfires to date burning over 980,091 acres (396,629 hectares). This is an average fire season in terms of number of fires for Alberta with the five year average being 1432, however the area affected by the fires is much larger than average. The relative same number of fires has actually burned almost twice as much land area. The average being 598,261 acres (242,108 hectares). Wildfires, in general, are becoming more damaging than in the past due to several factors including climate change and forestry practices. (see recent Huffington Post story for more info.)
Saskatchewan's province has seen unusually high temperatures and dry conditions this wildfires season resulting in a larger number of grassfires. This province has seen 401 wildfires to date affecting 572,790 acres (231,800 hectares). This is above the ten-year average of 323 wildfires.
Although the official wildfire season is coming to an end soon it does not seem that anyone has told the wildfires that. Lightning strikes and dry conditions continue to produce new outbreaks each day with no real end in sight.
British Columbia Wildfire Management site
Alberta Wildfire Situation Report
Canada Wildland Fire Information System weekly report
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner