Smoldering “zombie” wildlife under Arctic ice suddenly flares up this summer all summer when the snow and ice above it melts, new surveillance data reveal.
And this year has been the worst for Arctic wildlife on record, since reliable surveillance began 17 years ago. The Arctic releases more carbon in the first half of July than a nation this summer, the size of Cuba or Tunisia in a year.
It is monitored Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring ServiceEarth-monitoring organization of the European Union. According to Copernicus, more than 100 fires have burned in the Arctic since early June. “Clearly it’s related,” Copernicus senior scientist Mark Parrington told BBC. “We really didn’t expect to see these levels of forest yet.”
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The “zombie fire” tracked by Copernicus was likely to smolder under snow and ice in the carbon-rich peat of the Arctic tundra. When the snow and ice melt, these hotspots can ignite new wildlife in the vegetation above.
“Pete’s destruction by fire is troubling for many reasons,” Dorothy Pete, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, Told the Earth Observatory. “As fire burns the top layers of the peat, the permafrost depth may deepen, further oxidizing the underlying peat.”
The fire then releases both carbon and methane greenhouse gases from the peat which further contribute to the planet’s warming.
But zombie fire is not the only cause of rough wildfire season; Lightning strikes and human behavior are also causing collisions.
Parrington and his colleagues had previously monitored the vicious wildfire season of 2019, but were surprised at how the fire intensified during July this year, Parrington told the Earth Observatory.
Siberia was not only the center of wildfires in the Arctic this summer. Northern Alberta, Canada has also been particularly affected. The Chakeg Creek Fire in northern Alberta, for example, burned over 1,351 square miles (350,134 ha) and took three months. Global News Canada.
The Arctic fire season lasts from May to October, with the highest fires typically occurring between July and August. The 2019 fire season broke the record for the number of fires and carbon released by Copernicus that in June itself, the fire released 50 MW of carbon dioxide.
The 2020 fire is already precipitating the 2019 collision. All told, Copernicus estimates that between January and August, the fire left 244 megatons of carbon. According to Copernicus, Europe has more than the entire country of Vietnam released in 2017. The fire also leaves other pollutants that degrade air quality in Europe, Russia and Canada. Earth scientists are expecting a similar situation for 2021 and beyond.
“We know that temperatures in the Arctic are rising at a faster rate than the global average, and will provide the right conditions for a fire to occur when a fire occurs in hot / drying conditions”. Said in a statement Released by Copernicus, stating, “Our surveillance is critical in raising awareness about the wide-scale impacts of wildfires and smoke emissions that can help organizations, businesses and individuals plan against the effects of air pollution . ”
Originally published on Live Science.