Wildfires are releasing more carbon emissions in the first eight months of 2020 than they did in all of 2019. According to a recent report by the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, carbon emissions in the Arctic have surpassed last year’s emissions by 35%. The latest data shows that about 245 megatonnes of CO2 have been released in 2020 so far. This is a far higher figure than the entirety of last year, when 181 megatonnes of CO2 were released as a result of wildfires.
The data further shows that the peak month for wildfires in 2020 was July, with over 600 wildfires reported in late July as compared to 400 wildfires in the same time frame last year. More devastating is the fact that similar periods from 2003 through 2018 experienced an average of 100 wildfires.
The surge in wildfires is associated with climate change. In July alone, a heatwave saw temperatures rise to 30°C (86°F) in some parts of Siberia. However, there are no major differences between the temperatures experienced this year and last year. According to the researchers, the main difference has been the number of fires that occurred over this period.
“In some respects [the data] has been similar to 2019 in terms of the dry and warm conditions in the Siberian Arctic,” said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at Copernicus. “This year, the difference was a large cluster of fires that burned through July for many days leading to higher estimated emissions.”
Arctic wildfires have grown into a serious concern in recent years. In June, the Aerial Forest Protection Service of Russia reported that in Siberia’s forests, over 3.4 million acres of land had burned. Unfortunately, most of these fires occurred in areas that cannot be accessed by firefighters. In 2019, the Arctic wildfires caused a huge cloud of smoke that could cover the entire EU landmass. These fires are also destroying well-known carbon sinks, peat bogs. As peat bogs burn, they release megatonnes of stored carbon into the atmosphere.
Via The Guardian
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