Arctic wildfires spewed 700 tonnes of CO2 a MINUTE into the atmosphere this year

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Almost 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere in every minute of 2020, satellite data reveals. 

A total of 244 megatonnes of CO2 spewed into the air from the Arctic Circle wildfires plaguing the world’s northernmost region between January 1 and August 31. 

This is the highest recorded emission levels for the region and is already a third higher than last year’s total, when just 181 megatonnes of the greenhouse gas were produced in 12 months. 

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Pictured, the  fire Radiative Power of wildfires in the Arctic Circle from June through to the end of August. This is a measure of heat output from wildfires

Pictured, the  fire Radiative Power of wildfires in the Arctic Circle from June through to the end of August. This is a measure of heat output from wildfires

A satellite image showing a record-breaking temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) registered in the Arctic town of Verkhoyansk on June 19

A satellite image showing a record-breaking temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) registered in the Arctic town of Verkhoyansk on June 19

Scientists from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) reveal the summer of wildfires in the Arctic Circle exceeded last year’s records for CO2 emissions.

Daily images and observations taken from space reveal  the raging fires, driven by global warming, created smoke plumes equivalent of more than a third of Canada.

The wildfires have been concentrated primarily in Russia’s Sakha Republic and Siberia.

Left: Total estimated wildfire CO2 emission in megatonnes between June and August 2020 in the Arctic Circle. Right: Daily Total Fire Radiative Power between June to August for 2020 (red), 2019 (yellow) and the mean daily between 2003-2018 (grey) for the Arctic Circle

Left: Total estimated wildfire CO2 emission in megatonnes between June and August 2020 in the Arctic Circle. Right: Daily Total Fire Radiative Power between June to August for 2020 (red), 2019 (yellow) and the mean daily between 2003-2018 (grey) for the Arctic Circle

Left: Total estimated wildfire CO2 emission in megatonnes between June and August 2020 in the Eastern Federal District, Russia. Right: Daily Total Fire Radiative Power between June to August for 2020 (red), 2019 (yellow) and the mean daily between 2003-2018 (grey) for Eastern Federal District, Russia

Left: Total estimated wildfire CO2 emission in megatonnes between June and August 2020 in the Eastern Federal District, Russia. Right: Daily Total Fire Radiative Power between June to August for 2020 (red), 2019 (yellow) and the mean daily between 2003-2018 (grey) for Eastern Federal District, Russia

In June, a temperature of 100.4F (38C) was recorded in Verkhoyansk, 3,000 miles east of Moscow.   

Previous predictions suggested such temperatures would not reach the region until 2100, indicating the Arctic circle is warming far faster than anticipated. 

A study from Copernicus found that for the average SIberian temperature of every June from 1950 to 2018, this year was up to 10°C higher.

Clare Nullis, a spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organisation, said earlier this week: ‘This year was exceptionally bad, was exceptionally severe.’

These heat waves correspond to an enormous surge in wildries, including so-called ‘zombie fires’ which  may have been smouldering underground throughout the winter months.

According to the data, the peak of the Arctic fire season was in July and early August, but Sakha Republic and Chukotka experienced above average intensity well into late August. 

UN laments ‘deep wound’ to Earth’s ice coverage 

The United Nations weather agency says this summer will go down for leaving a ‘deep wound’ in the cryosphere.

It comes after a heatwave in the Arctic, shrinking sea ice and the collapse of a leading Canadian ice shelf.

The World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday that temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global average, provoking what spokeswoman Clare Nullis called a ‘vicious circle.’

‘The rapid decline of sea ice in turn contributes to more warming, and so the circle goes on and the consequences do not stay in the Arctic,’ Nullis said during a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.

The weather agency said in a statement that many new temperature records have been set in recent months, including in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk. The town, located in Siberia above the Arctic Circle line, reached 38 degrees Celsius (100 F) on June 20.

 

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Between June and August, the  fires in the Eastern Federal District of Russia emitted a total of approximately 540 megatonnes of CO2.

The figure for this area, which is outside the Arctic circle, surpasses the previous highest total emissions, which was in 2003

The EU research also scrutinised the wildfires affecting much of southwestern USA, particularly those seen in California. 

It is thought these fires, which include the second and third worst blazes in state history, were started by lightning.  

Mark Parrington, Senior Scientist and wildfire expert at CAMS, comments: ‘The Arctic fires burning since middle of June with high activity have already beaten 2019’s record in terms of scale and intensity as reflected in the estimated CO2 emissions. 

‘We know from climate data provided by our parallel service at ECMWF, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), that warmer and drier conditions have been prevalent again this summer. 

‘Our monitoring is vital in understanding how the scale and intensity of these wildfire events have an impact on the atmosphere in terms of air pollution. 

‘This is also providing useful information for scientists, policymakers and relevant bodies around the world.’

Meanwhile, a large region of the southwestern USA has been experiencing its own wildfire problems due to heatwave conditions with large plumes of smoke observed moving eastward across the Great Lakes towards the North Atlantic. 

California, in particular has been experiencing widespread wildfire activity, including the 2nd and 3rd worst fires in state history. 

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