Fires in Canada: Are the Fumes Present in France Toxic?

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Fires in Canada: are the fumes present in France toxic?

The cloud of smoke loaded with fine particles, which arrived this Monday 26th June in France, would circulate too high in the atmosphere to affect air quality.

Satellite images have been making the rounds on social media since this weekend. The smoke from the gigantic fires affecting Canada has been arriving in France  since Monday 26th June 2023.

These monster fires propelled particles and gases into the atmosphere “via intense atmospheric convection movements generated by air at the bottom warmer than that at altitude”, explains Météo France.

These finer particles were projected and remained in suspension and were thus transported over these thousands of kilometres by the atmospheric circulation and the westerly flow, currently in place.

Until Thursday and the rain

They should concern France until the rains announced for Thursday do not cause “a washing out of the atmosphere”, estimates the weather organisation.

“It is in the western half that they will be the most present on Tuesday 27th June and Wednesday 28th June, then they will shift to the east on Thursday 29th June before being swept out of our borders on Friday 30th June”, anticipates Guillaume Séchet, from Météo-Villes.

Remain to know the consequences? And they turn out to be minimal, apart from probably a slight change in the colour of the sky which could become foggy.

Air quality will nevertheless be scrutinized very closely over the next few hours, even if for the moment, the doses of particles seem too low to speak of health impact.

Monday evening, the concentrations of fine particles were normal throughout France. Thursday, with the arrival of thunderstorms from the west , “dirty rains” could however leave traces.

“The concentration of particles that have accumulated in New York because of the proximity between Canada and the USA has nothing to do with what affects us more than 5000 kilometres away”, reassures Météo France.

Between 2 and 8 kilometres in altitude

The fine particles contained in the smoke which passes through Europe circulate between 2 and 8 kilometres above sea level and it is “unlikely” that they will have an impact on the quality of the air in Europe, also tempers the observatory European Copernicus interviewed by our colleagues from AFP and the Spanish daily, El País, in particular.

Scientist Mark Parrington, attached to the observatory, confirms that the plume of smoke will “cross France”, after passing through “the Iberian Peninsula as well as Ireland and the United Kingdom”, and will continue on its way towards “the Benelux countries, Germany before continuing further east”, but he is not alarmed.

“Our forecasts”, established from satellite observations, “show high values ​​of aerosol concentrations (…) across the Atlantic, but mainly at very high altitudes and it is unlikely that this will have an impact on air quality in Europe,” he said in the Spanish daily.

On Sunday, 81 forest fires were still active in Quebec, including 27 considered out of control.

Across the country, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center (Ciffc) lists 470 active fires, including 244 out of control. Canada is living through an unprecedented year, with more than 7.4 million hectares burned since the beginning of January.

The precedent with Ophelia, in 2017, in Brittany

This is not the first time that distant fires have had an impact in France. In 2017, Hurricane Ophelia carried smoke from the fires in Portugal to the west of France. Due to a “southern flow” this time, Brittany had been plunged into a twilight atmosphere …

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