Shaded relief map showing the extent of boreal vegetation in Canada.

Wildfires in Canada – The World of Geography

Canada is the second largest country in the world with an area of ​​3,855,100 million square miles (9.98 million square kilometers).

The country’s geography varies from the Pacific coast, the Rocky Mountains, wilderness landscapes, vast boreal forests, and arctic tundra. This geographic diversity, along with climatic influences, plays a crucial role in where wildfires occur in Canada.

Northern region in Canada

The boreal zone refers to the extended vegetation belt that extends across the high northern latitudes in a circumferential manner. The northern region is “oceanic” and forms a ring just south of the Arctic Circle around the North Pole. T

The world’s northern region is a vital regulator of the global climate and a significant store of carbon.

Major countries with northern regions include Canada, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and China.

Map of the Northern and Midwestern regions of Canada

Vegetation map of northern Canada. Map: Projection of the Lambert Conical Congruent Map, Caitlin Dempsey. Northern Data: Canadian Natural Resources, 2009.

The northern region is characterized by forests and various other types of woodlands, which are mostly filled with cold-tolerant tree species.

Boreal forest are the forest areas within the boreal region.

To the north of the boreal region is the treeless tundra.

Hemiboreal is a subregion that is usually included in European maps of boreal regions but excluded from surveys in North America. The subalpine region is a transitional region located on the southern border of the northern regions. Below the hemisphere is the temperate zone in southern Canada.

View of the boreal forest in Alaska.
The boreal forest in the Clark Lake region of Alaska is dominated by white spruce mixed with black spruce and birch. Photo: K. Miller, NPS, public domain.

About 14% of the world’s total land area is covered by boreal plants with a total area of ​​1.9 billion hectares. Canada has 552 million hectares, or 28% of the total northern region.

Much of Canada’s northern region is covered with boreal forests that include species such as pine, spruce, pine, spruce, poplar, and birch. on 347 million hectares of northern Canada are covered with trees It stretches from the Yukon and British Columbia in the west to Newfoundland and Labrador in the east.

72% of Canada’s forests and forests are found in its northern region.

Wildfire season in Canada

The vast expanse of forests and forests in the northern region of Canada has warm, dry summers which makes it vulnerable to seasonal wildfires. The annual cycle of wildfires is part of Natural disturbance system that helps the boreal forest regenerate.

Under normal circumstances, wildfires help release nutrients stored in the forest floor and open the canopy to allow new seedlings to germinate.

Wildfire season in Canada It usually takes place between May and September each year. Melting snow in early May reveals dead plants that provide fuel for wildfires.

Climate change is increasing the frequency of wildfires in the northern region of Canada

Unfortunately, climate change is intensifying the cycle of forest fires, which has a negative impact on boreal forests and carbon storage.

More frequent and more intense wildfires release more carbon stored in soils and change the composition of vegetation in this region. More: How wildfires are changing boreal forests and increasing emissions

Rising global temperatures have led to longer fire seasons and more extreme weather events, both of which contribute to increased wildfire activity. A report by Natural Resources Canada indicates that the area burned by wildfires has doubled since the 1970s, a trend attributed to climate change.

The 2023 wildfire seasons in western Canada are off to a strong start. As of August 17, 2023 a A total of 13.7 million hectares (33.9 million acres) have been reported to have been burned by wildfires in Canada.. That number is seven times greater than the 25-year average at this date.

British Columbia, with its varied terrain and climate, is a wildfire hotspot. The province’s interior, with arid summer conditions and extensive coniferous forests, is often exposed to severe fires.

Alberta, with its mix of boreal forests, Rocky Mountains and grasslands, has a similar fire-prone geography.

Forest fires in the northwest regions

As of August 20, 2023, the Yellowknife Fire was burning in the Northwest Territories. Satellite images obtained on August 16, 2023 show wildfires and smoke billowing affecting the nearby city of Yellowknife, home to about 20,000 residents.

Satellite images of a wildfire burning in Canada as smoke billows from the area.
Yellowknife Fire, August 16, 2023. Image: Landsat 8, NASA, Public Domain.

Alberta wildfires

a regional emergency It was already announced by Alberta on May 6, 2023. As of May 15, 2023, there are 85 active burn Forest fires in the province, a higher than normal number early in the season. Although it is the start of the wildfire seasons, 464 fires have been burning so far this year in Alberta.

Hot, dry conditions last spring created more fuel and less moisture in the ground. Strong winds are increasing the number and intensity of wildfires burning in Alberta.

Intense wildfires can also create their own weather.

Employing remote sensing technology, scientists at the University of Wisconsin and the Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, Mapping the development of the pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) cloud..

Altocumulus clouds are a unique category of thunderclouds that are generated by extreme heat and smoke. The pyroCB cloud originated from a wildfire that occurred west of Edmonton on May 4, 2023.

Wildfires in British Columbia

British Columbia, the province bordering Alberta, has seen a large number of wildfires. there There are currently 54 active fires and 208 wildfires in British Columbia so far this year.

read the following: How to view animated satellite images of wildfires in California


8 facts about the boreal forests of Canada. (2020, July 16). Canada’s Natural Resources – Canada’s Natural Resources.

Brandt, JB (2009). Northern region extent of North America. environmental reviews, 17(n) 101-161.

Canadian Forest Service. (2022). State of Canada’s Forests annual report. Canada’s natural resources.

Wildfires rage in western Canada. (2023, May 11). National Environmental Satellite Service data and information.

This article was originally written on May 15, 2023 and has since been updated.



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