Jul 18, 2023, 8:17am EDT
net zero

What you need to know about the wildfires raging around the world

An helicopter carries water to a wildfire on the flank of a mountain in Bitsch near Brig, Switzerland, July 18, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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The News

Wildfires are blazing around the world as a heat wave grips Europe, Asia, and North America. La Palma in the Canary Islands, Greece, the Swiss Alps, and Canada are all battling forest fires, some of which have been burning for weeks with no signs of abating.

We’ve collected news and analysis you should read about the threat of fires in the face of climate change.

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  • Fires are burning longer, and hotter, around the world due to climate change. While firefighters are able to suppress 99% of them, the other 1% is what causes the most destruction. New mega-fires burn at an intensity of 100,000 kilowatts per meter, and while a 1,000-hectare fire was a big deal in the 1980s, blazes are now stretching to 30,000-hectares. — Financial Times
  • It might be time to start issuing smoke forecasts. Science journalist Neel Dhanesha argues that the way we describe smoke is divorced from the way we typically talk about weather, and the oft-used catchall of “haze” doesn’t quite encompass the complexities that accompany smoke. Offering a smoke forecast could let people know when poor air quality might be on the way, Dhanesha writes. — Heatmap
  • As of July 13, 911 forest fires were burning in Canada. Of those, 600 were characterized as “out of control,” and the majority are burning on the country’s west coast. Around 1.2 million hectares have been damaged — higher than average by a factor of 30. — Phys.org
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Know More

A fire burning in the Swiss Alps is expected to spread with changing winds, according to local authorities. No one has been injured by the blaze, which has displaced hundreds, but more than 100 hectares of forest have been damaged so far.

Around 70 million people could be impacted by wildfire smoke from western Canada drifting to the northern U.S. and as far south as Alabama.