In 2023, Edmonton experiences the most smoke hours on record – Edmonton

In 2023, Edmonton recorded the most smoke hours in a year since Environment Canada began tracking it in 1953.

This year, 291 hours of smoke have been recorded so far. This beats the previous record of 229 hours of smoke, set in 2018.

“We’ve had data in Canada on smoke visibility since about the 1950s…and this is the most hours of smoke we’ve ever seen in Edmonton since those measurements were taken.” said Natalie Hasell, Environmental Alert Preparedness Meteorologist. and Climate Change Canada.

Smoke hours are calculated when visibility is reduced to six statute miles or less.

Hasell said there will likely be more smoke hours in Edmonton this year.

“We broke the record we had in 2018, which was 229 hours of smoke, and we’re not done,” she said.

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“What is important is that this continues and we are already in the middle of September. We have no reason to believe, at this point, that much will change in the near future. »

In 2021, Edmonton recorded 126 hours of smoke. In 2022, there were no smoke hours.

“A zero-hour year doesn’t mean you haven’t smoked,” Hasell explained. “It just means there wasn’t enough smoke to reduce visibility to six miles or less.”

The smoke has caused “pretty significant numbers this year — and counting,” which Hasell said reflects Alberta’s record wildfire season — and fires still burning across the province, as well as in Columbia -British, in the Northwest Territories and northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“It has to do with the way the fires are behaving and our low pressure centers and the high pressure centers that are moving through the region,” Hasell said.

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“We still have many active fires in northern Alberta, northern British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. So any time there is a north or northwest wind, it brings smoke to north central Alberta.

As of September 18, Alberta has recorded a record 2.03 million hectares burned by wildfires during the 2023 season. The wildfire season officially lasts until October.

“The fact that these fires persist has led to many, many hours of poor air quality, reduced visibility and smoke, on multiple occasions,” Hasell said.

As of Sunday, Edmonton’s Air Quality Health Index was rated 10+ (very high risk). Monday afternoon it was level 3 (low risk).

Wildfire smoke fills the sky outside Edmonton on September 17, 2023.


Extremely poor air quality led to the cancellation of the Canada West Soccer match.

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Christy Morin, executive director of the Kaleido Family Arts Festival, said festival organizers are closely monitoring air quality in Edmonton.

“We were really concerned about the smoke this summer,” she said Monday.

“We’ve had a lot of meetings with different festival directors and producers… It’s that variable that you don’t know if it’s going to come in or out, if it’s going to be high or low, and what is high ? And what is the city standard? What is manageable and what does health say?

“And then you have a scale that goes from one to 10 and we can get levels of 11 and 12, outside of the range of one to 10), which is a little confusing.”

Really bad smoke could harm a local festival, or even force its cancellation, Morin said. Smoke is a priority.

“Smoke insurance… What happens if you have to cancel an entire festival? It would cost you $250,000… It could literally put festivals out of business.

Hasell says it’s important to closely monitor air quality and how you feel.

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“Especially since you’re repeatedly exposed to really poor air quality on a regular basis,” she said. “We are in May, June, July, August and now September.

“It’s definitely a stressor on the system,” Hasell said, adding that it can impact mental as well as physical health.

“Symptoms of exposure to wildfire smoke: headache, mild cough, phlegm production, sore and watery eyes, nose, throat, sinus irritation.

“And it can get worse.” If you start to experience dizziness, chest pain, severe cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, including asthma attacks, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat, you should seek medical attention urgently.

Canadians can track wildfire smoke concentration by particle size using Environment and Climate Change Canada’s fireworks map.

“We’re looking at 2.5 microns, even though smoke is made up of particles of all sizes – from big, chunky pieces of smoke and ash to tiny ones. These are tiny substances that go quite deep into your lungs. Most other elements are filtered by your natural system,” Hasell said.

The special air quality declaration in effect in Edmonton was lifted Monday, but Hasell doesn’t expect the clear conditions to continue.

“I would expect that in a few days you will find yourself under the smoke again or dealing with poor air quality again. It’s just a temporary break.

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Smoke from wildfires in Edmonton on September 17, 2023.


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