Get used to wildfire smoke, says forestry professor | Calgary | News

Albertans can expect that wildfire wheeze to become more frequent as climate change continues to feed western Canadian forest blazes, says an expert in the field.

We’re already choking back the consequences of man-made climate change that’s increasingly turning woodlands tinder dry and hiking the number of lightning strikes, said Dr. Michael Flannigan of the University of Alberta.

“With climate change, we expect more fire, then there’s more smoke and we can expect more intense fires and more smoke,” said Flannigan of the years-long forecast.

But that probably applies for this summer, as well, he said, with many parts of B.C. erupting into wildfires that are threatening or destroying inhabited places.

“B.C.’s busiest fire month is August so we have a lot more fire season left,” he said.

“We’ll have episodes like this into the fall unless there’s a lot of rain.”

Flannigan has recently returned from B.C. fire zones while helping film an episode on the topic for the CBC TV science program The Nature of Things.

The rapidity of wildfire smoke’s travel was alarming, he said, as were the parched conditions that perfect fuel for the blazes.

“It was incredibly hot, dry and windy and you could hear the grass crunch, crunch under your feet because it was so bone-dry,” he said.

“The smoke from the fire at Ashcroft reached Jasper while it was still burning.”

Scientists, including Flannigan cite climate change as the reason the amount of Canadian forest burnt has doubled since the 1970s, with Alberta starting its forest fire season March 1 instead of April 1.

“Fire seasons are staring earlier and the warmer it gets, the more lightning you get,” he said, listing off a growing number of disastrous forest blazes and…

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