Unprecedented fires burn the Arctic and rare fire ignited in Greenland

A Journal of People report

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) called the wildfires now burning around the Arctic “unprecedented.” A rare fire even ignited in Greenland, amid unusually hot and dry weather.

The WMO informed:

The Unprecedented #wildfires in #Arctic. Over past 6 weeks @CopernicusEU #Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) has tracked more than 100 intense fires in the Arctic Circle. In June alone, these fires emitted 50 megatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere = Sweden’s total annual emissions.

Satellites first detected evidence of the fire on the morning of July 10, 2019.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured an image of it in the afternoon that day.

The fire burned in Queqqata Kommunia, about 18 kilometers northwest of Sarfannguit and just east of Sisimiut. It occurred near a hut on the Arctic Circle Trail and was likely started accidentally by a hiker, noted Jessica McCarty, a scientist at the University of Miami. The fire appeared to be burning in an area with mossy wetlands (called fen) and heath shrublands.

Warm, dry weather helped set the stage for the fire. Meteorological data shows the region has been unusually hot and dry in recent months. And it was particularly warm the day that the fire burned.

It should be mentioned that remote sensing scientists were surprised to observe a large wildfire in August 2017 in western Greenland near Sisimiut. Two years later, another sizable fire burned in the same region.

Air temperatures at 2 meters were above the ground on July 10, 2019. Areas in western Greenland had temperatures approaching 20°C. The normal daily high in Sarfannguit in July is 10°C.

This fire was short-lived in comparison to the 2017 blaze, which persisted for two weeks. In this case, firefighters extinguished the blaze by July 11, the day after it began.


Smoke over forests of Alaska and Siberia

Smoke was seen rising over the forests of Alaska and Siberia.

Amplified wildfires are an expected, predictable consequence of a warming climate. This is all the more true in the Arctic, a sprawling region that is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the globe. The profound changes here can be easily observed over the Arctic ocean, too, where sea ice has broken records for melting throughout the 2019 summer.

Over the course of 10 days in July, Alaskan wildfires burned an area of land the size of Rhode Island. This is way above normal — though this doesn’t match Alaska’s extreme burning of 2015.

The largely Arctic state, however, just had its warmest 12-month period on record.

Just across the Bering Sea, in Siberia, NASA satellite images from July 13 show dense smoke swirling over eastern Russia, with red spots designating wildfires.

While a warming climate itself doesn’t create weather events or fires, it amplifies these events and significantly boosts the odds of such events occurring. That’s why leading climate scientists emphasize looking at the bigger picture — and following trends.

The trends are clear. On Earth, 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.

Warmer climes mean an atmosphere that holds more water, which translates to a boost in pummeling deluges — like the type that flooded Washington, D.C. earlier this week.

The U.S. just experienced its wettest 12 months in 124 years of recorded history.

Such warming also means momentous declines in Arctic sea ice, amplified, growing drought in arid swathes of the U.S., and fires that are burning for weeks longer than they were in the 1980s

It’s almost certain that the Arctic will be a smokier place as the region continues a relentless, accelerating warming trend.

This July, Anchorage hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the hottest day ever recorded in the city’s history.

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