Correlation Between Climate Change and Wildfires of 2023
By Olivia Hong
The wildfires around the world are getting worse and worse every year. This year has been recorded as one of the most serious for wildfires in years. According to the National Interagency Fire Center statistics, as of October 4, 2023, there have been 49,200 fires in 2023 that have burned 2.57 million acres in the United States. Following up, the Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS) estimates the total number of global wildfires in 2023 to be approximately 697,945. Among these wildfires worldwide, fires in Canada and Hawaii comprise the series of significant wildfires of 2023. The wildfires have caused serious and multitudinous damage to people and the environment.
Since March 2023, Canada has been affected by a record-breaking series of wildfires. According to the Natural Resources of Canada, the intensively expanded wildfires in June resulted in the burning of 18,496 million hectares (45.70 million acres), the loss of six lives, and the evacuation of 155,856 people. Moreover, the 2023 Canadian wildfires accounted for 27% of the 2023 global wildfires. The emissions were also one of the biggest issues from the wildfire season, causing air quality alerts and evacuations in Canada and the United States. Over 327 megatonnes of carbon were released into the atmosphere.
According to the study “Climate change more than doubled the likelihood of extreme fire weather conditions in Eastern Canada”, done by the World Weather Attribution, the major reason for Canada’s serious wildfires has been the change in the conditions of forests. Due to climate change, the weather has been warmer and drier, resulting in more dry and flammable vegetation. Extreme weather events, such as lightning and strong winds from a passing cold, which are also caused by climate change, have played a big role in the 2023 Canada wildfires.
On August 4, 2023, a series of the worst wildfires, the Hawaii Firestorm, began in Hawaii. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the fast-spreading wildfire by wind resulted in the deaths of 99 people, the burning of 17,000+ acres (6,880+ hectares), and a total damage of $5.5 billion. Much of the community of Lahaina was burned by the main Maui wildfire. Statistics showed that the typical area burned by wildfires in Hawaii has increased in recent decades.
The special project titled “Hawaii 2040: Climate Change” from Honolulu Civil Beat, showed that the primary reason for these quadrupled wildfires is climate change. Hawaii’s weather is reported to get hotter and drier year by year. Particularly in August 2023, a high-pressure system remained north of the Hawaiian Islands. This caused warmer and sunnier weather than usual. Hurricane Dora, though it was hundreds of miles away, intermeshed with the high-pressure system, creating stronger winds.
Bayside High School sophomore Vicky Wu, states, “I think it’s important to know the causes and effects of wildfires because the increase of the wildfires in recent years was due to climate change. We must acknowledge how we are the ones who created the hot climate that started most of the fires in the forest.”
Similarly, another Bayside High School sophomore, Pangyu Choi, believes, “People should be extra cautious about wildfires and their actions. Human actions [climate change] had a huge impact on the world, like bad air quality in New York and other states from Canadian wildfire emissions.”
Others, however, believe that the impact of wildfires is crucial to people, no matter their location. Bayside High School sophomore, Joanna Huang, says, “Wildfires may not have a direct impact on our region, but they will in the future. Millions of people suffer from these fires daily. People are forced into poverty, nature is being contaminated, and lives are lost. Wildfires are a major issue people should be aware of. Even if it doesn’t impact us now, with time, it will impact everyone.”
Correspondingly, Bayside High School sophomore, Yessica Suero, believes, “It is important that we understand the causes of wildfires because by doing so, we’ll be able to prevent or prepare for them in the future. Furthermore, it is very important to be aware of the effects that wildfires have caused in our communities since they resulted in the death of many people and animals.”
Likewise, wildfires occurring nowadays are not simply a part of the natural disaster. Wildfires are doubling and quadrupling due to human-induced climate change. Wildfires have been getting vastly uncontrollable and causing much damage. Furthermore, while it is clear that the recent wildfires have had a direct impact on its residents, the impact continues to interpenetrate individual lives as well. Thus, people must be aware of the causes of wildfires, alongside the short-term and long-term impacts.