Edmonton and Alberta Experience Record-Breaking Smoky Summer Due to Wildfires


This summer has officially been declared as the smokiest on record in Edmonton and several other communities in Alberta, overtaking previous records, as the effects of wildfires continue to be palpably endured. Recent data issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) indicates the Edmonton International Airport experienced a significant 266 ‘smoke hours’ throughout the summer season, decisively surpassing the earlier record set in 2018 of 229 hours.

‘Smoke hours’ represent the duration where visibility is throttled down to 9.7 km or less as a result of heavy smoke. It is noteworthy that these environmental observations have been continuously monitored 24/7 by human personnel stationed at such posts.

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Record-setting smoke hours were also logged at other stations over this summer. Peace River particularly reported as many as 644 smoke hours, a startling finding indeed! Meanwhile, cities including Grande Prairie and Cold Lake registered a count of more than 500 hours enveloped in smoky conditions, and Calgary just narrowly missed the 500-hour mark.

These data suggest that smoky summers are becoming a more consistent and grievous issue. Analysing data from 1961-2017, the reports show that Edmonton reported just one summer with more than 100 smoke hours back in 1961. However, the situation appears to be escalating at an alarming rate as three out of the past six summers have seen over 100 hours of smoke, with two of these years experiencing in excess of 200 smoke hours.

The stark numerical difference is also evident when we look at averages. The average quantity of smoke hours from 1961-2017 was roughly 17 hours, a number that appears meagre when we consider the average from 2018 to 2023, which has leapfrogged to approximately 110 hours in Edmonton. Hence, the environmental shifts and challenges experienced in the region indicate an uphill struggle ahead.