Experts say the combination of extreme heat and drought conditions is causing wildfires in western Canada to produce their own weather system.
Michael Fromm, a meteorologist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., said this phenomenon is called a thermocumulonimbus fire storm. This year, it has spread in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Both Manitoba and Ontario carried out tracking.
Since May, scientists have been tracking storms. Fromm said in an interview on Monday that the first one was seen in Manitoba this season.
He said that in the village of Lytton in BC, a fire broke out for two consecutive days in late June.
He added: “This may be the biggest cumulonimbus storm so far this year.”
“In fact, we are still tracking the plume of that storm because it is spreading all over the world, and it is about to make a full circle over the United States and Canada.”
“Perfect” storm conditions in British Columbia
Sufficient fuel, heat and wind created perfect conditions for the firestorm.
The day before the wildfire broke out there on June 30, Litton set a Canadian temperature record of 49.6 degrees Celsius, destroying most of the community.
“When you put these three things together, you get the perfect triple weather, which we call fire weather,” Fromm said, “so it’s hot, dry and windy.”
Simon Downer, a climate scientist in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said that storms can also produce lightning and cause more fires.
He said: “Fire will cause a storm, and then the storm will cause lightning, which may cause more fires.”
“This kind of uncontrolled feedback is the dangerous part.”
Above-average temperatures in many areas of BC are not expected to ease anytime soon. Environment Canada said that at least until the weekend, there will be showers in some southern areas that have been hit hard by wildfires.
The latest news about wildfires in BC
The BC Emergency Management Agency stated that as of Tuesday, 250 active wildfires were burning in the province. Since the fire season began on April 1, 4,176 square kilometers of land in BC have been scorched by the 1,226 wildfires that began on Sunday night.
At that time, 61 evacuation orders were in effect, affecting 3,713 properties. Another 85 evacuation alerts have been put in place, which means that people living in more than 18,200 properties have been told that they should be prepared to leave their homes in a short time.
Risks remain high in most parts of southern B.C.
The BC Wildfire Bureau stated that 40 fires were listed as notable fires, which means that the flames are either very obvious or pose a direct safety risk.
British Columbia will receive more help in fighting the fire on Tuesday, with 113 Australian firefighters from Quebec and 101 Australian firefighters from Mexico joining 34 Australian firefighters.
The Australian Task Force includes a nine-person incident management team and technical experts.
The Bureau of Meteorology predicts that several of the most challenging fires will have lighter winds, including the Nk’Mip Creek fire that is 68 square kilometers south of Okanagan between Oliver and Osoyoos. But the forecaster said that the temperature there will not go from medium to high of more than 30 degrees throughout the week, and there is no sign of rain.
Showers may depress parts of southeastern British Columbia, and fires on both sides of Upper Arrow Lake have forced hundreds of properties to issue evacuation orders or warnings.
However, Environment Canada stated that the probability of rain is only 30%, and it will not arrive until Saturday at the earliest.
How the storm started
Fromm said that a thermocumulonimbus storm usually starts with a smoldering fire, which feeds on the surrounding air, becomes active and produces hot bubbles. He said this creates a convection column, which generates more energy and makes the fire hotter and bigger.
“It’s like if you have a stove and a small burner – you don’t boil in a pot like you have a very hot, strong burner,” Fromm said.
“So, the fire will only make it easier for the air to be completely disturbed. Then if you really form a cloud, then it will generate more buoyancy and feed back to the fire.”
Fromm said that when a cloud “bubbles” into the air, it produces lightning.
He said the storm lasted two to five hours, occurred in the late afternoon, and ended when the air cooled or encountered a fire.
“When you look at it, you know, from space, like we do, you can actually see several cloud bubbles forming and flattening in the upper atmosphere,” he said.
“Then they blow out, and then you will see another bubble pop up, like the chimney burst several times in the life of that single cumulonimbus. So, on the ground, it means that the fire is in two to five It is a very dramatic and dangerous event to pulsate in some way within an hour.”