Wild Fires Are Ravaging Forests North of the Arctic Circle

Swan Lake Fire, 5 miles northeast of Sterling, Alaska, USA – June 29th, 2019 Photo: Pierre Markuse/Flicker CC 2.0

Large swathes of the Arctic, including in Alaska, Alberta, Greenland, and Siberia (areas better known for their icy landscapes) are on fire.

Pierre Markuse – a remote sensing and geography enthusiast – has collected satellite images of the blazes ravaging through the uppermost regions of the northern hemisphere, showcasing the scale of the situation.

HWF042 wildfire near High Level, Alberta, Canada – May 28, 2019, Pierre Markuse/Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) published data earlier this month, revealing these fires were responsible for releasing 55 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in June alone. To put it into perspective, that is roughly equivalent to Sweden’s total annual emissions and more than the carbon dioxide emitted from Arctic wildfires every June between 2010 and 2018 combined

Wildfires in the Arctic Circle are most common in July and August but have been exacerbated this year thanks to June’s excessive heat. The sixth month broke records becoming (globally) the hottest June ever documented

Wildfire in the Qeqqata Kommunia, Greenland (Pierre Markuse/Creative Commons)

Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, said the amount of CO2 emitted by Arctic wildfires between 1 June and 21 July 2019 is around 100 megatonnes and is approaching the entire 2017 fossil fuel CO2 emissions of Belgium.

“I think it’s fair to say July Arctic Circle wildfires are now at unprecedented levels, having surpassed previous highest #CopernicusGFAS estimated July total CO2 emission (2004/2005), & last month’s 50 megatonnes … and still increasing,” he tweeted.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has described the fires in the northern hemisphere as “unprecedented” and warned of the enormous impact they are having on CO2 levels contributing to the climate crisis.

Satellite image processed by Pierre Markuse showing numerous wildfires burning in Russia just south of the Arctic Circle (Pierre Markuse/Creative Commons)

The WMO added: “The northern part of the world is warming faster than the planet as a whole. That heat is drying out forests and making them more susceptible to burn. A recent study found Earth’s boreal forests are now burning at a rate unseen in at least 10,000 years.”

For more of Markuse’s images, find him on Flickr

H/t to The Independent.

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