Disturbing satellite images have uncovered vast swathes of the Arctic suffering from “unprecedented” wildfires.
Pictures taken by Pierre Markuse show smoke billowing across massive areas of uninhabited and wild land in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska.
With the ice melt on the enormous Greenland icesheet commencing a month earlier than average huge areas of land have been exposed to record-breaking summer temperatures.
Arctic Circle wildfires are now at unprecedented levels
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 #Copernicus GFAS estimated July total CO2 emission (2004/2005), & last month’s 50 megatonnes … and still increasing,” he tweeted.
In this zoomed-in view of the northern part of the #Greenland?? #wildfire? we can see that two spots are still smoldering/burning. Full-size https://t.co/1vmj0Ub5pv Album with more https://t.co/7ZL8wrDiRa #RemoteSensing pic.twitter.com/DsxNehkEwR— Pierre Markuse (@Pierre_Markuse) July 24, 2019
The World Meteorological Organisation (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.
“Since the start of June, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) has tracked over 100 intense and long-lived wildfires in the Arctic Circle,” the WMO said in a statement.
“In June alone, these fires emitted 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to Sweden’s total annual emissions. This is more than was released by Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined.”
400 wildfires in Alaska alone
“Although wildfires are common in the northern hemisphere between May and October, the latitude and intensity of these fires, as well as the length of time that they have been burning for, has been particularly unusual,” the organisation said, quoting Dr Parrington.
“The ongoing Arctic fires have been most severe in Alaska and Siberia, where some have been large enough to cover almost 100,000 football pitches, or the whole of Lanzarote. In Alberta, Canada, one fire is estimated to have been bigger than 300,000 pitches. In Alaska alone, Cams has registered almost 400 wildfires this year, with new ones igniting every day.”