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Discussion: Climate change, O and race cancellations

in: Orienteering; General

Jul 19, 2022 11:53 AM # 
With climate change-mediated extreme weather in the news yet again and hot off the cancelled JWOC forest races due to wildfire risk I was wondering if IOF and/or member federations have policies or committees in place to deal with, prepare for and/or plan for extreme weather?
Jul 19, 2022 11:54 AM # 
Funny you mention that - pretty much my first act on IOF Council was to start the ball rolling on getting a working group together to look at this.
Jul 19, 2022 12:35 PM # 
I notice that Qld again postponed/cancelled their recent MTBO event that was originally scheduled for June but was pushed out due to excessive rain causing crap conditions. I assume it was the same thing that happened again two days ago.
Jul 19, 2022 11:42 PM # 
I think race organizers would be wise to build extreme weather into their cancellation and refund policy. ie Force Majeure
Jul 20, 2022 4:36 AM # 
@tRicky, I believe it was covid second time around.
Jul 20, 2022 6:22 AM # 
They will need to think twice before organising another major event in Mediterranean / Southern Europe forests in the summer.
Jul 20, 2022 6:36 AM # 
in the meanwhile
Jul 21, 2022 9:39 PM # 
And what about policies to reduce the impact of our sport? Our main source of emissions would be participant travel, so reducing the frequency of major international events (e.g WOC, WMOC every 2 years) seems like a good idea to me.
Jul 21, 2022 9:46 PM # 
I think O-ringen and Jukola have a far bigger carbon footprint than WOC
Jul 21, 2022 9:57 PM # 
Ban international travel. Also local travel that involves a car but that would put big oil companies out of business and we can't have that.
Jul 22, 2022 6:43 AM # 
Ban international travel... we tried that didn't we? Now the roads are full of caravans.
Jul 22, 2022 7:13 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Is it orienteering's responsibility to reduce its maximum fun-ness when no one else seems to care?

Examples given:

* College football with 100,000 attendees
* World series, Super Bowl, NBA finals, NHL finals
* World Cup
* Any major marathon
* Disney + other various theme parks
* Le Tour
* Anyone buying things shipped by giant barges

Sort of feels like being told to put on a sweater and set the winter thermostat at 65 deg F / 18 deg C by someone who has three houses, none of which they are at because they are on their boat. Or took a jet to a climate conference.

Somewhere there's a chart ranking things by environmental impact and if you go 1000 miles to the right of it, there is orienteering.
Jul 22, 2022 10:48 PM # 
Thanks Mr Wonderful for yet again reminding us why we are in this mess - "If other people are trashing the planet why should I stop".

Arguing about who emits the most carbon isn't that helpful, but given many orienteers are well-off westerners who choose to travel to events nationally and internationally (guilty as charged) I'd say the impact of our sport on a per person basis is significant.

Climate change is already doing it's bit to reduce the fun-ness of orienteering, JWOC forest races cancelled, extreme temperatures and wildfires elsewhere in Europe, fire risk in the western USA. So it's time we seriously look at both adaptation and what we can do to mitigate impacts.

@blairtrewin what about IOF targeting orienteering being a carbon neutral sport? Offset emissions from IOF events, encourage national federations/other major events to pursue the goal too.

Of course offsetting isn't as good as not emitting in the first place, but we all like running around in forests so the least we can do is plant some more :)
Jul 23, 2022 12:22 AM # 
With fuel prices as they are, local events are winners.
Jul 23, 2022 2:26 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I think this is the first time in an eleven year history on attack point that I got someone to create an account just to respond to me.
Jul 23, 2022 2:42 AM # 
We are tiny, I don't think reducing the number of WOCs achieves anything other than virtue signalling
Jul 23, 2022 3:08 AM # 
offsetting isn't as good as not emitting in the first place

Well put, Greta
Jul 23, 2022 6:18 AM # 
Mr Wonderful, you're hot property.

TIL I thought Aus fuel was getting expensive, then I came to Europe.
Jul 23, 2022 9:31 AM # 
Offsetting gets a bad name because quite a lot of offsetting schemes have what could be politely described as creative accounting, but if it's done properly it can work. "Net zero" is going to require significant quantities of emissions to be removed from the atmosphere (since some residual emissions will be unavoidable), and at present the only technology we have to do that at scale is trees. Getting involved in getting more forests planted is something that should be a no-brainer for us (and obviously has benefits for our sport beyond anything to do with climate change).
Jul 23, 2022 10:29 AM # 
Trees, trees, trees are three solutions and I like the idea but what is really happening in the annual cycle of the trees.
Apparently trees produce leaves that soak in carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere? And that is good.
But what happens when the season changes the leaves fall and start to decay? Does the carbon soak into the ground or is it released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide?
We know that carbon material that decays in marshes or otherwise underground converts to methane which is undoubtedly very harmful for the atmosphere. What about above ground decaying carbon material?
Jul 23, 2022 11:30 AM # 
It's released, but roughly balanced by the CO2 taken up by new growth in the spring. Seasonal vegetation growth and decay (and the fact that most of the world's land area is in the Northern Hemisphere) is why global CO2 concentrations have a seasonal cycle - they peak around May and reach a (relative) minimum around November.
Jul 23, 2022 4:58 PM # 
So what you are saying is that no matter how many trees that are planted to absorb CO2 those same trees will be giving off as much CO2 as they absorb through the course of the annual cycle, right?
I guesss we'd better start looking elsewhere for our salvation.
Jul 23, 2022 5:52 PM # 
I have nothing against planting trees, though it always seems strange to me since I come from a place where that's not necessary: just stand back and any open land will rapidly turn into forest if you don't do anything to stop it. But refraining from cutting down forest to replace it with something like paved surfaces is clearly a good move. The forest floor gets thicker, and that new stuff being deposited is largely carbon.

As for cutting back on events, that may not have the intended effect. Are the would-be participants just going to stay home? Or are they mostly going to travel somewhere else anyway? Maybe even to participate in some other activity with a larger carbon footprint than orienteering.
Jul 23, 2022 6:09 PM # 
gordhun, the balance may be true for a mature forest. New/growing forests, however, are continually adding woody biomass, and thus storing carbon for potentially hundreds of years before starting a very slow decomposition process. That makes them good sinks.
Jul 24, 2022 11:15 AM # 
"Virtue signalling". When did doing the right thing become abhorrent. Oh, yes, when it suited Murdoch. "Virtue signalling" when hypocritical, yes, but small acts of sensible behaviour are not all hypocritical, even if their impact is small. Lets not let discussion be framed by the Murdoch empire.
Jul 24, 2022 1:27 PM # 
I actually think the symbolic value of making genuine efforts to reduce emissions is hugely important as it helps overcome the “no one else cares so why should I” barrier to change.

I really hope we see the IOF, federations and clubs discussing ways for us to reduce the emissions associated with participation in our sport. Even just recognising it as an issue is a good start. At the local level I’d love to see an increase car pooling to events and it would be interesting to see what it’d take to make an event carbon neutral.
Jul 25, 2022 1:12 AM # 
I second the carpooling comment, 007. Any developers out there interested in creating some kind of app to match drivers with people looking to carpool? I'd DIY it but my coding abilities don't really extend beyond corpus linguistics.
Jul 25, 2022 4:51 AM # 
(possibly UK-only and COVID appears to have killed it)
Jul 25, 2022 5:44 AM # 
the Irish Mountain Running Association has had a carpool option running on its website for many years -
Jul 25, 2022 5:58 AM # 
Back to the original if I may... it is 25 July 2022 (24 July Pacific). A major fire of 63 km² is burning and is about to deposit its AQI onto the more populated parts of Northern California. Just like during each of the prior years since 2017. An IOF Regional Championship is scheduled for 21 July 2023 through 24 July 2023 for the general area. What's the plan?
Jul 25, 2022 7:07 AM # 
Uncle JiM:
Bendigo had a Carpooling/Training page on FaceBook, never took of
Jul 25, 2022 1:26 PM # 
That's because many Bendigo members don't know if they're doing the Saturday event until about a minute before it starts so can't organise anything.
Jul 31, 2022 3:52 PM # 
Yikes! McKinney Fire explodes to 50,000+ ha after igniting on just Friday evening (36'ish hours ago).
Jul 31, 2022 9:01 PM # 
These fires break my heart. Two years ago I was stuck indoors for weeks choking on smoke while the massive Lionshead fire destroyed the small town where I used to camp as a kid. I waited with bated breath as the flames came dangerously close to destroying my favorite place on earth. At roughly the same time, a dear friend was evacuating her house in the Sierras to flee from the Creek Fire. Five years ago one of my friends lost a family home in the Santa Rosa Tubbs Fire. Seven years ago I waited helplessly through the Valley Fire, while half the town of Middleton was destroyed and we lost one of BAOC's best maps. It keeps happening, and it's getting worse every year. The scariest thing is that we're just barely starting to feel the full effects of climate change.

Whenever a policy-maker suggests that we focus on 'adaptation', I want people to understand what adaptation means. It's not some gentle process of building a few new roads and retaining walls. It's a devastating process that destroys people's homes and livelihoods. Adaptation means that ancient forests and irreplaceable natural wonders are lost forever. Adaption means that we have to get used to choking on smoke every summer. Adaptation means that millions of people will be turned into climate refugees from fires, flooding, and drought. The people of New Orleans or Paradise California are just the first wave of refugees. Even in rich countries like the US, adaptation means traumatic loss.

As these fires and heat waves become more common, people like us will need to adapt. But I am personally going to let my government know that I expect more than just adaptation. As far as I'm concerned, anything less than a real strategy to reach net-zero emissions is unacceptable.
Aug 1, 2022 12:38 AM # 
Have not forest fires been part of the cycle of life in North America since before recorded history? If so then they are not caused by climate change.
There are those who argue quite strongly that what has happened in the last couple of centuries is that we have stifled the natural cycle of fires thus building up the local supply of combustables so that when the fire is sparked as it eventually will be there is more material to feed the fire.
Florida and other southeastern states recognize this phenomenon. They endorse and support programs of regular prescribed burns to encourage the natural regeneration of forests while burning off decaying material in a planned controlled manner.
In Florida where I stage events the orienteering clubs and their participants definitely benefit from the aftermath of these planned burn events.
I know there is different vegetation and different weather in the west but it may be worth it for counties to keep the ground vegetation under control, by prescribed burns, in areas around population centers.
Aug 1, 2022 1:19 AM # 
As far as adaptation is concerned, one thing which needs to be remembered is that the time lag between a change in emissions pathway and the resultant changes in the climate is about 20 years (partly because it takes that long for the deep oceans to come into equilibrium with atmospheric forcing), so the changes that will occur over the next 20 years are largely determined by emissions which have already happened. Hence both adaptation and mitigation (which will determine whether the climate stabilises and if so, at what level) are important - they should not be spoken of as alternatives to each other.

Also, even if no further warming were to take place, most places have not been exposed to the full range of extremes which are possible in a 1.1-1.2C climate (which is about where we are now). As one example, most years now, we see somewhere in the world each summer in which heat records are broken by 3C or more (this year northern England, last year the Pacific Northwest/BC, in earlier years the likes of Chile or South Africa), but most specific locations haven't yet experienced an event of that severity, for no particular reason other than good luck.
Aug 1, 2022 2:24 AM # 
re: climate change vs fuel load

It's both!

Canada’s Blueprint for Wildfire Science summarizes the complexity of fire very well at the start of the executive summary. It states

“Canada is at a critical crossroads in relation to wildland fire. The changing climate is creating longer fire seasons characterized by fires that are more severe, more complex, and more expensive to manage. At the same time, decades of fire suppression and forest management policies have changed landscapes, affecting the ways in which fires occur and behave. Additionally, more human activity is occurring in forested areas, which is placing more communities, infrastructure, and economic activities at risk from large wildland fire events.”

we can insert orienteering into the last sentence
Aug 1, 2022 4:26 AM # 
what's the plan for North American Orienteering Championships 2023? I'd much rather do the Swiss O-Week and the O-Ringen if there's no plan. (It's not just the unbearable me, it's a couple hundred other, mostly Euro potential participants.)
Aug 1, 2022 5:43 AM # 
The plan, AFAIK, is for BAOC to host the event on the dates they've announced. Obviously, there's an appreciable risk that won't be possible next year, although my occasional checks of Purple Air over the course of the last couple of weeks suggest the air quality would have been fine if the event had been held on the same dates this summer.

What kind of plan do you think there should be, assuming changing the dates and/or venue are off the table and BAOC lacks the God-like power to simply prevent forest fires? It's not as though the organizers didn't consider a range of possible dates. It may just be that we're at the point where you SHOULD plan on attending other events instead if that's what your personal risk assessment leads you to think best.

(ETA: separately, I've been thinking about whether OUSA should/can have a backup plan for NAOC races to occur sometime in the fall, presumably as part of an event that will proceed as just another NRE weekend if the NAOC races are held successfully in July. Outreach to potential organizers only just begun.)
Aug 1, 2022 5:50 AM # 
I should say that adaptation is absolutely necessary, we can't avoid it at this point. My anger is particularly aimed at a select number of policy makers who are actively arguing that adaptation should be our only focus, and that mitigation is a waste of time.

The influence of climate change on forests is highly regional. Out here in the American West (the region I know best), there are many confounding factors. A lot of emphasis gets placed on a history of suppression. Forest management is certainly important. Things like controlled burns can help a lot (except when they don't). Logging corporations love to talk about forest management as a code-word for more logging, despite dubious scientific support. I have seen changes in management over the years, with more efforts to build fire-breaks and do some limited controlled burns, but preventative fire management remains highly underfunded nationwide. Ironically, the huge expenses involved in fighting massive fires has strained the funding of agencies involved in fire suppression, and hindered their ability to do preventative work.

But even with good preventative efforts, many of the factors are strongly climate linked. Winters are warmer, and this is allowing outbreaks of bark-beetles that strain the conifer forests. The snowpacks we depend on for summer moisture are becoming less consistent and melting sooner. The early melt allows for more early vegetation growth, and this is followed by a longer drying-period, which turns the vegetation into tinder. Then, extreme heat waves (like the one that's keeping me stuck inside and cranky this week) are providing ideal conditions for massive conflagrations. Under these pressures, the structure and types of forest we see will inevitably change.
Aug 1, 2022 5:58 AM # 
More practically...

As meet organizers, we should probably establish some guidelines for what kind of AQI's and other fire-risks we are willing to expose our staff and participants too.

A couple months ago I was talking with some other orienteering meet directors about the difficult decisions they had to make during an event that become smoky. They had to consult with medical professionals and make a decision on the spot. That's not an easy decision to make after months of hard work preparing an event, and many hours of travel from participants. In the future, we should probably start heading into our events with some clear-cut guidelines.
Aug 1, 2022 7:50 AM # 
(a) BAOC has perfectly capable winter venues and (b) even the little Oak Fire was enough to send the AQI in some places in the Tahoe Basin above 150 last week. I frankly don't understand this irrational attachment to the Sierra Nevada venues and at a time within the calendar when there are ample international-event schedule conflicts.
Aug 1, 2022 7:42 PM # 
I can certainly understand the desire to hold meets in the Tahoe Basin. I absolutely love running in the Sierras and I'd make a long trip to do it. The maps at Joe Grant and Pacheco are fine, but running on oak hillsides just isn't the same. I might go out of my way for a springtime meet at a lower-elevation forest like Boggs Mountain or Big Basin, but those maps already burned.
Aug 1, 2022 7:44 PM # 
On other notes, meet organizers should probably start ramping up our seriousness about preventing and responding to local fires. This might mean things like:

- Picking parking locations for event staging more carefully. Being careful to avoid fields and roadside parking where hot car engines can spark dry grass. Making sure that large events have a good escape routes, and preferably with more than one access road.

- Potentially including some basic fire-suppression tools (like shovels and small extinguishers) in meet supplies.

- Having plans to stage rapid evacuations. Maybe siren systems to recall competitors in the case of a dangerous fire nearby. And ways to quickly ensure that all competitors have returned safely in the case of such an emergency.
Jun 7, 2023 2:28 PM # 
The wildfire situation in Canada is really bad. Tens of millions of North Americans are under air quality warnings. Many of the Quebec and Ontario wildfires are burning the peaty boreal. These fires produce a lot of toxic smoke. When peatlands are drained or degraded the risk increases greatly. As orienteers we should be concerned because there are a lot of areas we race in that have drained or degraded peatlands (e.g., UK, Sweden, Finland, Estonia,...). There are about 20 Mha of degraded peatlands in Europe alone. When fires get into these dry organic soils they can burn for weeks, months and even through the snowy winter. This article I wrote in the Conversation a few weeks ago as a companion piece to our recent paper in Nature Climate Change may interest some orienteers.

or this one from a few years ago

and finally a link to a paper in Epidemiology highlighting the excess deaths in Moscow from the 2010 peat fires.
Jun 7, 2023 7:12 PM # 
Hammer - what action can we take?
Jun 7, 2023 7:42 PM # 
Action? I'll write more when I have time. Busy with fieldwork and media stuff. For now...

Jun 8, 2023 2:18 PM # 
To check your area, eastern MA is good now.,-71.936481...
Jun 8, 2023 2:53 PM # 
what action can we take?

Protests, hardcore ones. Maybe burn something big.
Only the destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline has leaked half a million tonnes of methane into the ocean and atmosphere.
Oh, wait...
Jun 8, 2023 3:50 PM # 
re: actions...

O Action? I think national federations and IOF need policies to determine when races are a go and a no go in situations like this. Action: We as a community can work together on this. Also from a club hosting perspective develop a better refund policy and for participants to be understanding of race hosts that may have to cancel races.

Land mgmt action? Elections have consequences. here in Ontario we have a government that is changing policies to allow wetlands to be drained. Yeah 1970s thinking in 2023. Wetland drainage including possibly portions of the 2nd biggest peatland int he world will increase burn severity and fire risk and future smoke pollution. So i would suggest advocating for both wetland restoration and better fuel management. There is active wetland restoration taking place in many countries (including Canada) that will pay off down the road. Action: support organizations that are improving land management (restoration, fuel management, prescribed burning) for wildfire and advocate for governments to support this.

Climate change action? Again, elections have consequences. In Canada forest fires fall under provincial jurisdiction and some provincial (e.g. Ontario and Alberta) governments slashed their forest fire management budgets at a time when fire scientists say it needed to be doubled or tripled. Canada has historically relied on provinces to share resources when there are fire issues but now we have several provinces needing international assistance at the same time. With budget cuts there are fewer fire fighters from some provinces to share with others and to fight their own fires. But equally important because climate change is making more of the landscape ripe for burning we have a higher demand for fire management funds.
Action: self explanatory, I think.
Jun 8, 2023 9:07 PM # 
Orienteering policy-wise, is canceling/postponing races the only plausible option in the face of poor air quality due to smoke from wildfires? If my understanding that the problem is mostly small particulates (unless the fire is extremely close by, in which case also larger particulates) is correct, how well, oh mighty Attackpoint brain trust, would mandating participants wear an N95/KN95/FFP2 mask while orienteering address the problem of health impacts from exercising in unhealthy air quality?
Jun 8, 2023 10:10 PM # 
My view is that if the conditions are bad enough that mask-wearing is advisable, they're bad enough that competitive events should not go ahead. In Victoria we put together a policy for event cancellations due to smoke during the 2019-20 fires, with AQI of 150 as the trigger, but in the end it wasn't needed as none of the worst smoke days were scheduled event days (only local urban competitions take place at that time of year). I've forgotten what happened in Canberra.
Jun 9, 2023 1:02 AM # 
It's not just lungs, either. Smoke gets in your eyes. Not to mention, how do you police the mandate -- surely some will feel that it's advantageous to pull down the mask when nobody is looking. It would be like a minor doping scandal.
Jun 9, 2023 1:15 AM # 
I spent a lot of time walking around DC today in reportedly pretty unhealthy air, masked but with no eye protection at all and my eyes didn't complain in the least. Some others are no doubt more sensitive but my takeaway is that serious irritation of the eyes probably doesn't occur until higher values of AQI than trigger public health warnings about respiratory and cardiovascular issues. People with relevant expertise, please correct me if necessary.

As to enforcement of a mask mandate, it can hardly be harder to visually detect people not wearing masks than it was to check control cards mid-course in the old pin-punching days to make certain people hadn't gained advantage by visiting some controls out of order.
Jun 9, 2023 1:41 AM # 
I could be wrong about the eyes. But it seems much harder to check masks (to me, at least).
Jun 9, 2023 3:26 AM # 
Total surveillance on orienteering courses would obviously be impractical but I can't see why a credible threat that one of a small number of event volunteers out roaming the woods might see your bib number and your naked face and disqualify you wouldn't suffice. There could be one lurking behind that tree up ahead. There could be one some distance off with a pair of binoculars. How sure can a cheater possibly be at every moment during a race that they'll spot any potential watchers and have time to put their mask back on undetected before the watcher spots them?

It would be some additional trouble for the organizers but if the alternative is canceling a race.... should we not be willing to go to some trouble to avoid canceling races?
Jun 9, 2023 3:36 AM # 
The difference is that when we used to check punch cards (or threaten to), it happened only at a control, and everybody got checked for what was ostensibly an unambiguous violation. Pulling down a mask intermittently would be low risk, and you could also probably wear it improperly so that it looks like it's on, but you're getting a lot of unfiltered air.
Jun 9, 2023 3:44 AM # 
As an athlete, I personally think that if the smoke is making the air quality bad enough to be unsafe with or without masks, the race should not continue. Athletes should not have to decide between their (possibly long term) health and competing for medals/team slots/rankings/etc. I understand that this means that tons of work could go to waste on the organizers part, but I guess that brings us back to what many have said, which is should events be scheduled in places that fires/smoke are likely at the time of the event.
Jun 9, 2023 6:33 AM # 
Smoke has long been a issue periodically effecting events in western Canada, although is it becoming increasingly more common. As such, many clubs have policies for canceling events much like one would for any other extreme weather event. From what I understand, events are cancelled if the AQHI exceeds a moderate level / reaches 7+ (Canada uses a slightly different scale, Air Quality Health Index / AQHI). Moderate is considered as safe for the general population to take part is strenuous outdoor activities. Event directors will usually advise at risk participants to take it easy or wear a mask if the AQHI is moderate.
Most of the time, this comes into effect for smaller club events but if it happened at a larger event I don't see why it should be treated any differently than any other major weather event that would reason cancelation or postponement.
Jun 9, 2023 8:15 AM # 
I would think that land owners/managers would have a LOT of input into policies regarding air quality for events in their terrain -- and that they would need to be included in written agreements.

One would hope that such agreements could include language regarding potential rescheduling -- including refunding associated fees if rescheduling within a reasonable timeframe isn't possible.
Jun 9, 2023 1:08 PM # 
As an athlete, I personally think that if the smoke is making the air quality bad enough to be unsafe with or without masks, the race should not continue. Athletes should not have to decide between their (possibly long term) health and competing for medals/team slots/rankings/etc.

I agree with Bridget. Just don't put people in the situation of having to choose between short-term success and long-term health. The similar situation happened just a few months ago when the US ski-O sprint champs was cancelled due to extreme cold weather. The races were still held but without that title and those who chose to participate dressed sensibly for the weather rather than for competitive advantage (i.e. more layers, full face covering, etc).
Jun 9, 2023 1:59 PM # 
Athletes should not have to decide between their (possibly long term) health and competing for medals/team slots/rankings/etc.

That would be nice but we've all been living in that exact situation with respect to illegal performance enhancing drugs for decades and yet we haven't canceled all of sport in order to save cheaters from the potential long term health consequences of cheating. I'm not sure why people see this differently. But, unscientific though this discussion is as a sampling of opinion within the orienteering community, it certainly looks as though they do. Which is fine - if the community as a whole prefers to cancel events rather than contemplate mandating safety measures to allow them to proceed despite poor air quality, I'm not about to try to force the latter into being as OUSA policy.

Regarding Bridget's closing - I understand that this means that tons of work could go to waste on the organizers part, but I guess that brings us back to what many have said, which is should events be scheduled in places that fires/smoke are likely at the time of the event. - I think it's safe to say this will be much more of a factor in future decisions to award championships, and consequently more of a consideration when clubs decide when and where to schedule events intended as bids for championships, although the bidding for championships generally would have to get significantly more competitive before I would expect that to result in us never again seeing a championship occur somewhere fire-prone during (the seemingly ever lengthening) fire season.

ETA: a last thought regarding the predictability of poor air quality - I've been living the last two days here in DC with air quality most here apparently consider bad enough to justify canceling orienteering competitions because of fires (I believe - haven't actually checked on a map) burning unusually early in the year more than 1000 kilometers away. Planning around unhealthy air quality is never going to be foolproof and will presumably only become harder as climate change impacts worsen.
Jun 9, 2023 2:21 PM # 
There really aren't many weather situations that cause cancellation of orienteering. I've been doing this for about 40 years, and I can think of only about a half-dozen times off the top of my head when an event was modified due to weather conditions. Only one of those (I may be overlooking something obvious) was an outright cancellation, when an unexpected early-season snowstorm overloaded branches that still had foliage on them, and the woods were a combination of very slippery footing and limbs crashing down all over the place. In other cases there has been shortening of courses, changing of championship status, whatever. I've orienteered through an active forest fire and a tornado warning with sirens going off. We're really resistant to cancellation.
Jun 9, 2023 3:37 PM # 
As someone who worn an N95 at work day in and day out for months, I can't imagine running in one or even how that would be feasible. A respirator needs to be fit tested for each individual to work correctly, which would not be possible for everyday civilian usage. Normal breathing is more difficult. I can't imagine breathing while running. I expect most athletes would simply wear the mask incorrectly and breathe through the sides, either mistakenly or purposefully, negating any benefit.
Jun 10, 2023 8:03 AM # 
I was going to say this too Ursus! A hot day on my feet in the lab wearing one all day was miserable. If it was fitted properly going up stairs was noticeably harder. I wouldn’t want to run in one.
Jun 10, 2023 9:33 AM # 
The amount of smoke drifting through the air of eastern North America was certainly startling but, frankly, not particularly dangerous for the average human at ground level. It certainly wasn't as dangerous as the average temperature inversion induced, smog laced humid days we see periodically throughout our typical urban summers.
The smole, like the smog, are partly products of weather patterns. In the recent case a combination of low and high pressure systems that we can usually expect to sweep across the continent got stalled over northern Quebec. They combined to propel smoke particle laced winds southward and into population centers. Fires are common in our northern boreal forests. Normally the winds carrying their smoke disperse north and eastward affecting very little population.
So how bad was it? Mostly we just got reporters quoting scales that few would understand. Even fewer seemed to understand that due to relative temperatures and the rising of warm air the smoke effects were worse several hundred feet in the air than at ground level.
Good on one reporter who dug a little deeper and got one scientist to compare the effects of the smoke to something many of us could understand. "The effect on our respiratory system would be like smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day." Now that is not good. I could not handle a cigarette every two hours or so but lots of people can and do. They certainly would not have as good a cardio-respiratory system as they could have if they did not smoke but all the health experts tell us that someone who quits smoking that half a pack a day can soon find the body recovering from the effects. Our respiratory system has an amazing filtration system. We don't like hacking and coughing but those are signs of our filtration system in action. So certainly someone who ingests a bit of fire smoke from afar for a day or two will have no trouble recovering from those effects.
How about those cancelled orienteering and other sports events? Those were probably prudent decisions but compared to go-no go with a severe storm system approaching or a cold front moving in they were pretty 'small potatoes'.
Jun 10, 2023 10:28 AM # 
Tyranny only exists when the people give up their constitutional rights for safety. Obedience is what put us all at risk.
Jun 10, 2023 10:37 AM # 
yurets you must really have a problem with those MAGA folks then.
Jun 25, 2023 12:57 PM # 
Today's Ironman Mont-Tremblant was cancelled just before the race due to poor air quality from Quebec wildfires.

Quebec burned area last 20 years: 1.121 Mha

Quebec burned area last 25 days: 1.128 Mha

Let that sink in...
Jun 26, 2023 1:20 PM # 
The big picture isn't great. Focusing on parochial orienteering concerns, I just checked and apparently Ottawa, Montreal, and Rawdon all have unhealthy air today (unhealthy enough to trigger an event cancellation by the Australian standard mentioned upthread). Does anyone feel knowledgeable enough to comment on how much of a threat we should perceive to the COC festival in August? And, for that matter, to the COC/NAOC festival in August next year?
Jun 26, 2023 1:47 PM # 
I'm in Ottawa today. The sky is overcast with cloud and there is a slight haze of smoke that seems to be getting lighter as the day goes on. What apparently happens is that as the ground warms the air heats and rises and takes the smoke particles with it.
At its worst I heard an interviewed scientist say that the exposure to the smoke then was the equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a day. Now I have never done that but over the years I have known many people who did that and more and survived those years. I'm pretty sure we all can survive the equivalent for a few days.
What is being left out of the news is that our bodies, particularly the throat, breathing passages and lungs have amazingly effective filtration systems that trap and expel 'foreign particles'. Exposure to the fire bred smoke, and second-hand smoke is not pleasant. (Funny because we love the same particles when they are campfire smoke). They can and do cause harm when exposure is prolonged but no need to panic. Our bodies have been endowed with filtration systems that will protect in any short term that comes with an orienteering event.
What about the cancellation of that Ironman triathlon? Given the current conditions and the climate of public opinion I think it was the right call. Also the triathletes would have been going at max air intake for 9 to 17 hours. That's a lot more than the average air intake and could overcrowd some personal filtration systems.
Jun 26, 2023 3:13 PM # 
Speaking for myself, I always try to move to the upwind side of the campfire.
Jun 28, 2023 4:19 AM # 
Me too - the smoke situation is quite good in (southern) BC at the moment :-).

FWIW, I think Environment Canada's AQHI (Air Quality Health Index) is fairly reasonable. Personally, I would not race in "High Risk" or "Very High Risk" conditions, i.e., AQHI >= 7. Also, I would not organize a race in those conditions. Neither racing or organizing would seem worth the risks.

Way too early to predict whether there is an issue for COC's in August.
Jun 28, 2023 10:11 AM # 
I reached out to a wildfire scientist colleague about the QC fires. He called the current fires a beast. There is currently a very high drought code which means the fires are burning deep into the organic soils and it will take A LOT of water to put them out. Which likely means smouldering into winter especially in the James Bay region. Smouldering fires in deep organic soils produces a lot of particulate matter. So while air quality is a function of amount of smoke produced (which will likely stay high to moderately high for some time) and the transport processes which is controlled by a lot of factors I would think it would be good race mgmt to plan for air quality issues most of the summer.
Jun 28, 2023 3:49 PM # 
I don't know what the race cancellation cutoff should be for AQHI or related indices, but it should probably be on peoples' radar in the current climate.

There has been some talk about minimizing the effect of the wildfire smoke as similar to "smoking 10 cigarettes a day". A meta-analysis published in the BMJ looked at the impacts of low cigarette consumption and found:

"Smoking one cigarette per day carries around 40-50% of the excess risk for developing coronary heart disease and stroke of smoking 20 cigarettes per day, and smoking five cigarettes per day has around 55-65% of the excess risk"

Hard to know exactly how that translates into wildfire smoke inhalation during everyday exposure or during an athletic event. But I would say that in general, smoke inhalation of any kind is not great for your health.
Jun 28, 2023 9:46 PM # 
It's interesting how older people on average seem to be less concerned about things like air quality exposure than younger ones, at least in the circles I move in. Not sure if it's age bringing wisdom, a sense that this too will pass, a psychological effect driven by an unwillingness to delay gratification as the number of years ahead to look forward to changes, or something else. (Or if it's even real.)

(If that doesn't derail the thread, not sure what will.)
Jun 28, 2023 9:56 PM # 
When you're old enough, you stop worrying about health risks because you're going to die soon anyway.
Jun 29, 2023 1:51 AM # 
Maybe too the fact that all the things older people did when they were kids are now extremely hazardous. I remember melting lead to pour into molds to make fishing lures, handling asbestos and formaldehyde in science classes, handling liquid mercury, and riding a bike and downhill skiing without wearing a helmet. Nowadays the only dangerous thing left to mess up kids is apparently TikTok.
Jun 29, 2023 1:53 AM # 
Smoking cigarettes probably has other health implications over and above those potentially resulting from bushfire smoke inhalation (nicotine anyone?)
Jun 29, 2023 4:33 AM # 
You have to die of something. No option is pleasant.
Jun 29, 2023 8:15 AM # 
The Australian Institute of Sport issued some guidelines on wildfire smoke and exercise which are potentially a useful resource here.
Jun 29, 2023 9:37 PM # 
re: QC fires and COCs

Last 9 runs of CFSv2 model forecast for July suggests QC will be

très très chaud
Jun 30, 2023 12:19 AM # 
@blair thanks - that's a great resource.

It seems then that for most o terrain (unless the wildfires are close enough for evacuation), how doable an event is really depends on which way the wind is blowing on a particular day. For example, looking at the PM2.5 for the past month in Ottawa , it was good for exercise (<25ug/m3) for 6 days, then poor for a day, then hazardous for a day, then good for 17 days (except for one poor), then very poor to unhealthy for 3 days, then good for a day, then poor for 2 days.
Jun 30, 2023 4:14 AM # 
I seem to recall it being très très chaud 4 years ago in Ottawa...
Jun 30, 2023 9:40 AM # 
Tous les dames d'Ottawa vous souvient comme un gars très très chaud , GuyO.
Jun 30, 2023 1:23 PM # 
whew, now it's getting smokey in here
Jun 30, 2023 2:17 PM # 
a nice summary by Andrew Freedman
Jul 1, 2023 4:33 AM # 
Aug 28, 2023 11:50 AM # 
As of last week the area burned by wildfires in Canada topped 15 Mha (5x the long term average) for 2023. Let that area sink in. It is almost 4x the size of Switzerland (this year’s WOC host) and 2x the size of Scotland (WOC 2024 host).

A preprint by scientists at Canadian Forest Service suggests the unprecedented QC fires from earlier this year were 2x more likely due to climate change

and no they weren’t started by space lasers or eco-terrorists or the other BS conspiracy crap floating around on social media.

Over 170,000 people have been evacuated this fire season and air quality remains a very big problem in BC, AB, NWT, and parts of NW US.

The extent of the climate change-driven wildfire air quality issues in Canada this year has led to a call for Canada to upgrade its air quality index (which varies between provinces). I thought this article on wildfires and AQI would be interesting to Canadians.

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