The record extreme fires in Quebec, Canada this summer were twice as likely to happen and burned more intensely due to human-caused global heating, say researchers.
When New York was choking on the smoke from distant eastern Canadian wildfires in early June, it was just the beginning of the huge blazes.
By August, the fires had spread to Canada's west coast and have now burned nearly twice as much nationally than the previous record set in 1989, according to a new report by the World Weather Attribution (WWA), a climate change research initiative.
The unprecedented 14 million hectares (34.6 million acres) of burned area — larger than Greece — prompted the WWA to see if and how climate change amplified the massive 2023 Canadian wildfires. It is the latest of more than 50 studies by the researchers seeking to quantify how much climate change influences extreme weather.
Focused on the province of Quebec, the report concludes that climate change, caused primarily by burning fossil fuels, helped create dry, "fire-prone" weather about 20-50% more intense than average.
Unusually low precipitation led to an arid and warm spring in Canada, including in Quebec, which caused snow to melt more rapidly than usual and brought forward the start of the fire season, according to Yan Boulanger, Research Scientist at Natural Resources Canada, and a report author.
With the world having already warmed around 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1880s, global heating has doubled the chance of the extreme fire event witnessed this year in Canada, according to the study.
"It's important that we can put a number on the impact of climate change," Boulanger told DW.
The study also showed that climate change made the long duration of the 2023 wildfires from early June to late August seven times more likely.
"The word 'unprecedented' doesn't do justice to the severity of the wildfires in Canada this year," Boulanger said. "From a scientific perspective, doubling the previous burned area record is shocking."