Fewer tornadoes when there are more wildfires? Researchers study the phenomenon | Forest fires in Canada

“In recent years, when we have a big fire year like last year, we tend to have fewer tornadoes,” noted David Sillsgeneral director of Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) University Western.

Researchers established that in 2023, in the midst of the worst wildfire season this country has ever seen, there were only 86 tornadoes. The year before, in 2022, Canada set a record of 129 tornadoes.

According to David Sillsresearchers from NTP still have difficulty explaining this discrepancy. However, they have several theories.

Where there is smoke…

We have a lot more wildfire smoke coming across the country when we have these big fire yearsexplains Mr. Sills and having that smoke in the sky really reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the ground and warming the ground, and generating instability for thunderstorms.

Last year, about 18 million hectares of Canada’s vast forests went up in smoke, leaving eight people dead and tens of thousands evacuated.

As the fires burned, billows of smoke drifted across the continent, choking Canadian and American cities in an acrid fog so thick it reversed decades of progress on air quality.

This pall of wood smoke extending over the continent appears to have a diminishing effect on the size and power of storms.

A quote from David Sillsgeneral director of Northern Tornadoes Project of the University Western

There were the same number of storms as usual last year, but their intensity was significantly less. If this is the case, the probability of having a tornado with a less intense thunderstorm is obviously lower as well.

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Smoke from wildfires envelopes Toronto, which for several hours on June 30 was the most polluted large city in the world, according to the IQAir website.

Photo: (CBC News) / Patrick Morrell

Establishing a definitive link between intense wildfire seasons and their impact on weather conditions could take some time. Especially when researchers notice that historical tornado patterns are changing.

THE NTP recently created an online portal covering 40 years of scientifically-based tornado information from 1980 to 2020, providing anyone with internet access an unprecedented look at Canada’s extreme weather events.

It’s incredibly useful for scientists like me, said Geoff Coulsonmeteorologist in preparation for alerts at Environment Canada.

The database contains a lot of information on not only where tornadoes have occurred in recent decades, but also the classifications, their duration, the extent of damage.

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The Northern Tornadoes Project’s new advanced dashboard includes data on more than 250 tornadoes over the past four decades that have not been previously documented.

Photo: Provided by Northern Tornadoes Project

The Open Data Project has already shown that tornado alley (Tornado Alley) of Canada — the area of ​​the country where tornadoes are most likely to occur — has moved eastward, from Saskatchewan to Ontario, over the past 20 years.

Mr Coulson adds that this trend was clearly visible in last year’s weather data. As well as this relationship between wildfires and tornadoes that we still need to understand.

Fewer tornadoes with climate change?

2023. So with all that fire, of course, the smoke floating around, reflecting some of the sunlight —it can definitely inhibit activity.”,”text”:”We noticed it in Saskatchewan last year, Coulson said. They only had one tornado in 2023. So with all that fire, of course, the smoke floating around, reflecting some of the sunlight — that can definitely inhibit activity.”}}”>We noticed it in Saskatchewan last year, Coulson said. They’ve only had one tornado in 2023. So with all this fire, of course, the smoke floating around, reflecting some of the sunlight — that can definitely inhibit activity.

This year, Canada is already seeing intensified wildfire activity in part because of a drought made worse by low snowfall during a warmer-than-usual winter.

>>A tornado.>>

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A tornado

Photo: getty images/istockphoto / mdesigner125

Back at University Westernresearchers from NTP will observe what kind of effect, if any, this year’s wildfire season will have on storms.

We get asked all the time, “Are there more tornadoes because of climate change?” and we don’t have a good answer yetdescribes Mr. Sills.

Phenomena such as droughts and forest fires are known to be linked to climate change, the academic continues. If we have more of these things, it may cause fewer tornadoes over time due to climate change.

Hypotheses that still need to be unraveled by the NTPwith other fire seasons.

With reporting from CBC’s Colin Butler

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