Climate change means this year's relatively quiet forest fire season in Ontario is not what we should expect in the future, says David Martell, a professor emeritus in the faculty of forestry at the University of Toronto.

He was part of a team which analyzed the data around fires caused by lightning strikes, collected over 50 years both east and west of Lake Nipigon in Ontario, and 43 years of data collected in Alberta.

In the west, the numbers indicate the season is starting sooner and ending later.

'Not our future, not by any means'

It's slightly different, but still a worrying picture in Ontario, he said, because the data suggests that, in both regions of the province, the season still starts around the same time each spring, but is now ending later in the fall.

David Martell, University of Toronto

David Martell, a professor emeritus in the faculty of forestry at the University of Toronto, says climate change appears to be extending the length of forest fire seasons in Ontario, (Univerity of Toronto)

"So essentially this is just a stroke of luck that we've had a few years of not much fire because this is not our future, not by any means," Martell said.

The cooler, wetter weather much of Ontario has experienced in the summer of 2017 has kept the threat of forest fires fairly low.

But Martell cautioned that the fire risk could change in a matter of days.

"If I was a betting person, I would say that even if things change, we probably wouldn't have as bad a second half of the fire season as we normally do , but in the final analysis, a few days of hot, dry weather, and a slew of dry lightning storms and all of a sudden all bets are off."