Updated Oct 20, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Canada's historic wildfire season abates after 45.7 million acres razed

Charred remains in Enterprise, Northwest Territories, Canada, in August during Canada's unprecedented wildfire season. Photo: Andrej Ivanov/AFP via Getty Images

Canada's record wildfire season that's repeatedly triggered air quality alerts across the country and the U.S. has eased, some five months after it began.

State of play: About 45.7 million acres of land has burned in Canada this year — 2.5 times more than the previous record of 17.5 million acres razed in 1995. Some fires continue to burn.

The big picture: Thousands of people have been displaced and all 13 of Canada's provinces and territories have been impacted by the unprecedented wildfire season — with blazes reaching the boreal forests ringing the Arctic and in peatlands, which function as natural sinks for carbon dioxide (CO2).

By the numbers: Several provinces have experienced a record year for fire. These include British Columbia (7 million acres burned) and Quebec (12.8 million acres destroyed), which both more than doubled their previous records

Threat level: Climate change is leading to larger, more frequent wildfires, multiple studies show.

  • Experts have expressed concern that El Niño, which is currently rated as strong and forecast to intensify further, could bring a second straight hot summer and another challenging wildfire season next year — though not as "exceptional" as 2023, per CBC News.
  • Professor Mike Flannigan, director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science at the University of Alberta, told the outlet it's difficult to forecast for 2024. "But if next year is going to be a warmer year, I would expect that the dice will be loaded. Odds are, it'll be an above-average year [for fires]."

Go deeper: Canada's "hellish" wildfire season defies the calendar

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper