Canadian smoke clouds New Hampshire

  • Haze from wildfires in Nova Scotia as seen Tuesday evening near the Sherman Adams building atop Mount Washington.

  • Haze can be seen along the horizon in this view from the top of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail on Mount Washington early Wednesday. Ryan Knapp photos / Mount Washington Observatory

Monitor staff
Published: 5/31/2023 4:29:07 PM
Modified: 5/31/2023 4:28:42 PM

Parts of the state are under a health advisory due to smoke from raging wildfires in Canada that have produced hazy skies in southern New Hampshire and some brilliant sunsets.

We’ve seen this situation before but this time there’s a twist: The wildfires are to the east of us, not out west. This extremely unusual situation is the latest sign of the new dangers arising in a warming world.

The N.H. Department of Environmental Services has declared a smoke advisory from Tuesday through Friday when winds are expected to change and rain arrives. So far, areas south of Concord have been the most affected.

“While air quality overall is expected to remain acceptable and not exceed the federal health standard, NHDES officials advise individuals who are unusually sensitive to air pollution (including children, older adults, and anyone with heart or lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis), or anyone especially sensitive to smoke, to take precautions to protect their health by limiting prolonged outdoor exposure and exertion,” the department wrote on its website.

The smoke over New England that has caused hazy skies and brilliant sunsets comes from huge blazes that broke out this week in the forests of the Maritime province of Nova Scotia – a place that, like northern New England, has no experience with the sort of large wildfires that are common out west.

The biggest of three uncontrolled fires covered 27,000 acres Wednesday. By comparison Nova Scotia, which is a little over twice the area of New Hampshire, has seen a total of just 11,600 acres burned over the past five years combined, according to the province’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables.

As of Wednesday, 18,000 people were under evacuation alert after 200 homes were destroyed near the capital city of Halifax, with no sign of a letup.

Most of Canada is seeing much drier-than-normal conditions and elevated temperatures. Fires have blackened landscapes in the western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, which have seen similar outbreaks in recent years, but there have also been huge wildfires in Ontario, Quebec, and the Northwest Territories.

Smoke from fires in Western Canada and the U.S. have been carried to New Hampshire by the usual west-to-east wind pattern numerous times, most recently in 2021. It is unusual for large-scale wind patterns to blow in the other direction, as they have done this week.

The Associated Press and Washington Post contributed to this story.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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