Towering pyrocumulus clouds seen from satellite imagery on May 26, 2019. Image: Pierre Markuse/Flickr.

It's only the end of May, yet already about 1 million acres of forest have gone up in flames across Alberta, Canada.

Why it matters: The wildfires have caused a sharp deterioration in air quality across western Canada and large swaths of the U.S. The fires are occurring earlier in the season than is typical for this region, and they're a possible sign of a warming planet, in which conditions conducive for such fires are becoming more frequent.

The latest:

  • According to Alberta's wildfire firefighting agency, wildfire danger remains high across the province, which is also the case in parts of neighboring British Columbia.
  • More than 2,000 personnel are battling the blazes.
  • The smoke from these fires turned the skies an eerie orange from Edmonton to North Dakota on Thursday and Friday, with smoke seen via satellite imagery wafting all the way toward the Canadian Arctic, where it can enhance the melting of sea and land ice.

Thousands have been forced to evacuate to avoid the blazes, according to Canadian media reports.

The backdrop: High latitude forests have seen increased wildfires in recent decades, particularly in parts of Canada, Alaska and Russia, though forest management practices and human settlement patterns also play a role. In the case of boreal forest fires in Alaska, recent activity is unprecedented in the context of the past 10,000 years.

  • A robust finding of climate studies is that wildfires are likely to become larger and more intense in parts of the world, such as the American West, as the average temperature warms and snowmelt timing shifts to earlier in the year.

1 ironic thing: The fires forced Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to cancel a public event at a gas station to mark the repeal of Alberta's carbon tax, meant to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

Kenney, who was elected in mid-April, has made reversing climate change measures a priority of his administration. Alberta is the center of Canada's sizable oil and gas production.

“This is an opportunity to remove this huge dead-weight cost that punishes hard-working people for living ordinary lives in this province," Kenney said Thursday.

Go deeper

Updated 40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 12,859,834 — Total deaths: 567,123 — Total recoveries — 7,062,085Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 3,297,501— Total deaths: 135,155 — Total recoveries: 1,006,326 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. States: Florida smashes single-day record for new coronavirus cases with over 15,000 — NYC reports zero coronavirus deaths for first time since pandemic hit.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA chief projects "apex" of South's coronavirus curve in 2-3 weeks — Coronavirus testing czar: Lockdowns in hotspots "should be on the table"
  5. Education: Betsy DeVos says schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds — Pelosi accuses Trump of "messing with the health of our children."

Scoop: How the White House is trying to trap leakers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has told several White House staffers he's fed specific nuggets of information to suspected leakers to see if they pass them on to reporters — a trap that would confirm his suspicions. "Meadows told me he was doing that," said one former White House official. "I don't know if it ever worked."

Why it matters: This hunt for leakers has put some White House staffers on edge, with multiple officials telling Axios that Meadows has been unusually vocal about his tactics. So far, he's caught only one person, for a minor leak.

11 GOP congressional nominees support QAnon conspiracy

Lauren Boebert posing in her restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, on April 24. Photo: Emily Kask/AFP

At least 11 Republican congressional nominees have publicly supported or defended the QAnon conspiracy theory movement or some of its tenets — and more aligned with the movement may still find a way onto ballots this year.

Why it matters: Their progress shows how a fringe online forum built on unsubstantiated claims and flagged as a threat by the FBI is seeking a foothold in the U.S. political mainstream.