Huge areas of the Arctic are on fire – here’s what that means for the planet

arctic

(Iceland, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Writer, Formative Content


Large tracts of the Arctic are ablaze as wildfires reach unprecedented levels, satellite images show. The massive fires devastate everything in their path, polluting the atmosphere and forcing thousands of people from their homes.

Arctic wildfires emitted as much carbon dioxide in June as Sweden produces in an entire year, according to the EU Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service(CAMS). Around 50 megatonnes of CO2 have been released, more than Arctic wildfires produced in the previous eight Junes put together.

In a six-week period, over 100 intense and long-lived wildfires have hit the Arctic Circle, some large enough to cover an area equivalent to 100,000 soccer pitches.

Heat output from wildfires.
Image: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS)

Fanning the flames

Although wildfires are common in the northern hemisphere between May and October, this year they are encroaching further north. The blazes have increased in intensity and are burning longer than in previous years.

“It is unusual to see fires of this scale and duration at such high latitudes in June,” says CAMS senior scientist Mark Parrington. “But temperatures in the Arctic have been increasing at a much faster rate than the global average, and warmer conditions encourage fires to grow and persist once they have been ignited.”

In Alaska, summer temperatures reached 32°C, against an average of around 18°C. In the parts of Siberia prone to wildfires, June temperatures were almost 10 degrees higher than the 1981-2010 long-term average.

Globally, the past four years have been the hottest ever recorded, according to NASA figures.

Playing with fire

Global warming means rising temperatures are drying out Arctic forests and making them more susceptible to fires. Intense heat incinerates trees, vegetation and any woodland creatures unable to escape the flames, while allowing the carbon stored in branches and tree trunks to escape.

A satellite image of wildfires in Ontario, Canada.
Image: World Meteorological Organization

Fires also pose a risk of permafrost melting and drying, exposing the carbon-rich peat underneath to combustion, thereby releasing more greenhouse gases.

There is also a danger of soot from the fires landing on snow and ice, causing the ice to absorb heat instead of reflecting it, increasing temperatures further.

As a relatively untouched part of the globe, the Arctic is sensitive to environmental change and is warming faster than most other regions.

 

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2019 places failure to mitigate climate change as the second greatest threat facing the world.

What is happening in the Arctic is a powerful reminder of the challenge that climate change poses. But the region also provides scientists and climatologists with a wealth of valuable information to assist them in the fight against global warming.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Benefits of rural migration effect often overlooked, new UN report suggests

Politicization of migrant ‘crisis’ in Hungary making them scapegoats, independent UN human rights expert warns

What do the economic woes of Turkey, Argentina and Indonesia have in common?

Latvian economy is thriving, but boosting productivity, improving social protection and transitioning to a low-carbon productive model are vital for sustainable and inclusive growth

EU elections: The louder the threats and the doomsaying the heavier the weight of the vote

Bundestag kick starts the next episode of the Greek tragedy

The Europe we want: Just, Sustainable, Democratic and Inclusive

Blockchain can change the face of renewable energy in Africa. Here’s how

FROM THE FIELD: Weather reports come to aid of Uganda’s farmers

Concern rising over fate of Rohingya refugees sent home by India: UNHCR

The MWC14 Sting Special Edition

We don’t need to ban plastic. We just need to start using it properly

Huawei answers allegations about its selling prices

How telehealth can get healthcare to more people

Eurozone stuck in a high risk deflation area; Draghi expects further price plunge

EU-Japan trade agreement enters into force

UN agency chief calls Ethiopia’s revised refugee law ‘one of most progressive’ in Africa

Digital transformation and the rise of the ‘superjob’

The next Google in biotech: will it be Chinese?

DR Congo: efforts to control Ebola epidemic continue, UN food relief agency doubles assistance to affected people

Amsterdam is getting a 3D-printed bridge

I cycled over 6,000km across the United States to document climate change. Here’s what I learned

3 ways to fight stress at work

Germany’s strong anti-bribery enforcement against individuals needs to be matched by comparably strong enforcement against companies

We all have a ‘hierarchy of needs’. But is technology meeting them?

Technology can help us end the scourge of modern slavery. Here’s how

Saudi Arabia, China, among 14 nations under UN human rights spotlight: what you need to know

European Parliament and Eurovision sign partnership for European Elections

France is building a village for people with Alzheimer’s

Greece’s last Eurogroup or the beginning of a new solid European Union?

UN ‘prioritizing needs’, ramping up aid, as Hurricane Dorian continues to batter the Bahamas

Gender equality and medicine in the 21st century

“Leaked” TTIP document breaks post 8th negotiations round silence and opens door to critics

‘Crippling to our credibility’ that number of women peacekeepers is so low: UN chief

Women must be at ‘centre of peacekeeping decision-making’, UN chief tells Security Council

This app lets you plant trees to fight deforestation

Africa Forum aims to boost business, reduce costs, help countries trade out of poverty

EU–US: What is the real exchange in a Free Trade Agreement?

Eurozone: Even good statistics mean deeper recession

The EU Commission vies to screen Chinese investment in Europe

With security improving in DR Congo’s Kasai, thousands of refugees head home from Angola

Partnerships key to taking landlocked countries out of poverty: UN Chief

These are the world’s 20 most dynamic cities

Biggest London City Banks ready to move core European operations to Frankfurt or Dublin?

New Erasmus: more opportunities for disadvantaged youth

What is digital equality? An interview with Nanjira Sambuli

‘Race against time’ to help women who bore brunt of Cyclone Idai: UN reproductive health agency

At UN, Cuba slams US ‘criminal’ practices undermining country’s development

UN chief hopes for new agreement after Israel concludes international observation mission

Migrant workers sent more money to India than any other country last year

Security Council condemns ‘heinous and cowardly’ attack in Iran

Opening – Parliament expresses support for victims of Fuego volcano in Guatemala

Kenya wants to run entirely on green energy by 2020

A Sting Exclusive: “The Digital Economy and Industry are no longer opposing terms”, Commissioner Oettinger underlines live from European Business Summit 2015

Can Obama attract Iran close to the US sphere of influence?

This is what the world’s CEOs really think of AI

COP21 Breaking News: “We must accelerate the process”, Laurent Fabius cries out from Paris

Migrant caravan: UN agency helping ‘exhausted’ people home

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s