More than 100 Arctic wildfires burn in worst ever season


Staff member
Oct 7, 2008

The Arctic is suffering its worst wildfire season on record, with huge blazes in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska producing plumes of smoke that can be seen from space.

The Arctic region has recorded its hottest June ever. Since the start of that month, more than 100 wildfires have burned in the Arctic circle. In Russia, 11 of 49 regions are experiencing wildfires.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations’ weather and climate monitoring service, has called the Arctic fires “unprecedented”.

The largest blazes, believed to have been caused by lightning, are located in Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk and Buryatia. Winds carrying smoke have caused air quality to plummet in Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia.
In Greenland, the multi-day Sisimiut blaze, first detected on 10 July, came during an unusually warm and dry stretch in which melting on the vast Greenland ice sheet commenced a month earlier than usual.

In Alaska, as many as 400 fires have been reported. The climatologist Rick Thomas estimated the total area burned in the state this season as of Wednesday morning at 2.06m acres.

Mark Parrington, senior scientist with the Climate Change Service and Atmosphere Monitoring Service for Europe’s Copernicus Earth Observation Programme, described the extent of the smoke as “impressive” and posted an image of a ring of fire and smoke across much of the region.
Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics, told USA Today fires of such magnitude have not been seen in the 16-year satellite record.

The fires are not merely the result of surface ignition of dry vegetation: in some cases the underlying peat has caught fire. Such fires can last for days or months and produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases.
“These are some of the biggest fires on the planet, with a few appearing to be larger than 100,000 hectares,” Smith said.

“The amount of [carbon dioxide] emitted from Arctic circle fires in June 2019 is larger than all of the CO[SUB]2[/SUB] released from Arctic circle fires in the same month from 2010 through to 2018 put together.

In June alone, the WMO said, Arctic fires emitted 50 megatonnes of CO[SUB]2[/SUB], equal to Sweden’s total annual emissions.


Forum Elite
Elite Member
Oct 7, 2008
North Pole: multiple lightning strikes follow record-low sea ice levels

Multiple lightning strikes have been observed 300 miles from the North Pole, according to the US National Weather Service, in the latest sign of extreme changes to the Arctic environment.
The strikes, detected by the NWS station in Fairbanks, Alaska, were produced by towering storm clouds. They were detected on Saturday, and while not unique, come as the region is experiencing record-low sea ice levels, high temperatures and widespread fires on areas of tundra.
An extreme ice-melt in Greenland is estimated to have produced a run off of 197bn tons of ice-sheet water into the Atlantic, enough to raise sea levels by 0.5mm, or 0.02in, in a one-month time frame. On a single day, 1 August, Greenland lost 12.5bn tons of surface ice to the sea.
At the same time, a wildfire has been burning in western Greenland while Siberian wildfires have produced smoke haze circling the upper regions of the globe.
According to a NWS tweet and statement, the lightning strikes hit an area of sea ice or open ocean waters mixed with ice, near 85 degrees north, 120 degrees east.
“This is one of the furthest north lightning strikes in Alaska forecaster memory,” the NWS stated.
Fairbanks meteorologist Ryan Metzger told the Washington Post that he could not say if the strikes were unique, partly because meteorologists say they don’t always focus on that area.
“I wouldn’t say it’s never happened before, but it’s certainly unusual, and it piqued our attention,” Metzger said.
The strikes are the latest sign that Arctic warming is accelerating beyond predictions due to human-caused global climate change. In July, Alaska had its hottest month on record with temperatures breaching 90F in Anchorage, exceeding those in Miami.
There is no longer any sea ice present in Alaskan waters, with Bering Sea ice beginning its annual melt in February while the extent of Arctic sea ice is at its lowest in at least 1,500 years, according to research.


Forum Elite
Elite Member
Oct 7, 2008
Arctic wildfires spew soot and smoke cloud bigger than EU

Plume from unprecedented blazes forecast to reach Alaska as fires rage for third month

A cloud of smoke and soot bigger than the European Union is billowing across Siberia as wildfires in the Arctic Circle rage into an unprecedented third month.
The normally frozen region, which is a crucial part of the planet’s cooling system, is spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and worsening the manmade climate disruption that created the tinderbox conditions.
A spate of huge fires in northern Russia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada discharged 50 megatonnes of CO2 in June and 79 megatonnes in July, far exceeding the previous record for the Arctic.

The intensity of the blazes continues with 25 megatonnes in the first 11 days of August – extending the duration beyond even the most persistent fires in the 17-year dataset of Europe’s satellite monitoring system.
Mark Parrington, a scientist in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said the previous record was just a few weeks. “We haven’t seen this before,” he said. “The fire intensity is still well above average.”
He said the affected regions previously registered unusually high temperatures and a low level of soil moisture, which created the perfect conditions for ignition. Globally, June and July were the hottest months ever measured.
Russia has suffered most. Last month, the president, Vladimir Putin, mobilised the army to fight the blazes and four Siberian regions declared a state of emergency. But fires continue to rage. The Earth observation scientist Josef Aschbacher said that in Siberia alone, the two-month inferno had destroyed 4.3m hectares of taiga forest.
The smoke has spread further still. Antti Lipponen, of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, estimates the affected area at 5m square kilometres. “For comparison, the area of EU is about 4.5m km² and the area of contiguous US about 8.1m km²”, he tweeted.
The cloud is billowing north-east and is forecast to reach Alaska, where this year’s fires have already scorched an area bigger than all the wildfires that devastated California last year.
Carly Phillips, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Alaskan fires had burned 18.1m acres of forest since 2000, more than double the amount over the previous 20 years.
“Carbon emissions from these wildfires could exacerbate climate warming for decades to come,” she wrote in a blogpost. “Alaska’s ecosystems store huge quantities of carbon both as permafrost and soil that has accumulated over millennia. Wildfires destabilise these stores of carbon by combusting soil and accelerating permafrost thaw, both of which release heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere.”
The black soot also settles on what is left of the Arctic ice, weakening its ability to reflect the heat of the sun.
In Greenland, satellite images this month revealed fires stretching across an area 380km wide, adding to the pressures of an Arctic heatwave that caused a record melt-off of the world’s second biggest ice sheet. This week, a huge wildfire in the Qeqqata region left a smouldering area of 6.9km².
Since the start of the year, more than 13.1m hectares have burned, according to Greenpeace, which says this has released as much carbon dioxide as a year’s worth of exhaust fumes from 36m cars.
The Arctic is not the only afflicted region. So far this year, the EU has had 1,600 fires bigger than 30 hectares, which is four times the annual average over the previous decade, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
About 1,000 holidaymakers had to evacuate resorts in Gran Canaria this week to escape wildfires. Last month, campers had to abandon their tents due to a fast-spreading blaze in southern France during a heatwave.
In the UK, the Fire Brigades Union says there have been 10% more callouts this year, which has overstretched emergency resources. Firefighter numbers had fallen by a fifth since 2010 due to government cuts, the union said.
New Posts
Post thread…
Log in