Canadian wildfires continue to rage with a smoky central US

A counterclockwise swirl made of smoke and clouds spins over southern Canada, North Dakota.
On May 20, 2023, the GOES-16 satellite captured this image of smoke from Canadian wildfires swirling over southern Saskatchewan and into northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota. Image via CIRA/ CSU & NOAA.

Canadian wildfires continue to rage

Update: On May 21, 2023, Canadian wildfires were still burning in boreal forests, while the smoke poured across the provinces and into much of the U.S. Many of the northern tier U.S. states had smoky skies and red suns over the past week. Some of the smoke eventually sank through the atmosphere, creating what looked like foggy conditions as the smoke settled near the ground. But as fires continue to burn in Canada, more smoke billows across North America. Meteorologists even saw a large swirl of smoke, imitating a cyclonic storm swirling around a low-pressure system. Places in Canada and the U.S. face air quality alerts with these ongoing early-season wildfires.

As of Sunday morning, May 21, British Columbia reported 89 active wildfires, Alberta had 86, and Saskatchewan had 27.

Canadian wildfires the week of May 14, 2023

On May 15, 2023, Canadian wildfires were still raging in Alberta and neighboring provinces of Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In addition, British Columbia was experiencing an early season heatwave. On May 15, there were 89 active fires in Alberta. British Columbia had 56 active wildfires, while Saskatchewan had 35. Smoke from the Canadian fires was pouring over the border into the skies of North Dakota and Minnesota.

Alberta wildfires and swirling smoke

Wildfire season in Alberta, Canada, typically begins in May. But this year has had an explosive beginning. This forest-covered province has endured a hot, dry spring. And, by last week, wildfires billowing up from the forests led to evacuations of more than 29,000 people, and a state of emergency beginning for Alberta on May 6, 2023. NASA Earth Observatory reported that the fires have been so intense that they’ve produced towering chimneys of smoke in the form of pyrocumulonimbus clouds.

The smoke from all these fires has swirled through the atmosphere and across the northeastern United States, resulting in some colorful sunrises and sunsets.

You can follow along with the progress of the fires and suppression efforts at the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard.

Neighboring provinces of British Columbia and Saskatchewan are also experiencing some wildfires.

ap of North America showing fires and areas with smoke in shades of gray.
The smoke and fire map on May 21, 2023. Darker shades of gray mean heavier smoke is in the area. Image via
Alberta wildfires: Flares with smoke billowing and clouds nearby.
NASA’s GOES-18 satellite captured this image of fires raging out of control in Alberta, Canada, on May 6, 2023. On the same day, the Canadian government declared a state of emergency for Alberta. Plus thousands of people have faced evacuation while the wildfires have burned approximately 1 million acres. Also, smoke from the Alberta wildfires has swirled all the way into the northeastern United States. Image via the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (CIRA/ CSU & NOAA).

Wildfire news from Twitter

Fires in Russia

Meanwhile, forests in Russia’s Ural Mountains and Siberia are also on fire. The boreal forest fires in Siberia have currently burned around 130,000 acres. In Omsk, Siberia, residents are under a state of emergency. The Washington Post said that Russian officials indicated that some people have been killed by the fires, but they didn’t specify how many or where.

Bottom line: Canadian wildfires continue to rage, with the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan producing smoke that is pouring into the U.S.


Read more: Wildfires turn world’s largest forests into carbon emitters

May 21, 2023

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