Devastating Wildfires Spread Across Arctic Circle, EU Monitor Finds

The European Union’s climate change monitor, Copernicus, reports that the Arctic Circle is once again experiencing devastating wildfires. The area has been hit by these fires three times in the previous five years. 

According to the region’s Deputy Minister of Environment, Management and Forestry, more than 160 wildfires had impacted over 460,000 hectares of land as of 24 June. The smoke from the fires is causing scientists to worry that the Arctic ice will be less reflective of solar radiation, leading to increased heat absorption by land and water. 

The Arctic, according to University of Exeter professor Gail Whiteman, is ground zero for climate change, and the growing number of wildfires in the Siberian area is a strong indicator that this crucial system is getting dangerously close to climatic tipping points.

Wildfires are moving northward due to climate change, consuming carbon-rich organic soils in boreal forests and tundra and generating massive quantities of greenhouse gases. 

With 6.8 megatons of carbon, the June wildfires were the third-worst in the last twenty years, behind only 2019 and 2020.

Conditions in high northern latitudes are becoming more favorable to wildfires due to the Arctic’s rapid warming, which is far higher than the global average. Extreme wildfires have been on the rise in the northeast Arctic area, boreal forests, and temperate woods, according to new research. Recent research has shown that climate change is making wildfires worse and that fire behavior is becoming worse in some areas, which might have severe consequences for human exposure and carbon storage, according to the authors of the study.

Arctic Basecamp and CAMS have been collaborating to transform wildfire data into an alarm system for climatic events in the Arctic. Cumulative wildfire smoke affects high-latitude air quality and may deposit particles onto surfaces like snow and ice, making them more susceptible to melting. 

There were 72 active wildfires in the Sakha Republic as of June 27, consuming almost 700,000 acres.