Arctic Wildfires Are Back With Record Blazes in Western Siberia

This year’s fire season in the Arctic started with intense activity in western Siberia and Canada, and a below-average number of blazes in eastern Siberia. 

The boreal fire season, which typically runs from May to October, started earlier this year with the first blazes recorded in April, according to a report by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. Europe’s Earth observation agency registers the daily number of incidents and total estimated emissions using satellites. 

“While it isn't uncommon to see some wildfires during spring in high latitudes, it is difficult to predict what we may expect during the summer,” said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist and wildfire expert at Copernicus. The intense activity in western Siberia this early in the season is raising concerns among scientists. 

Arctic Wildfires Are Back With Record Blazes in Western Siberia

The Arctic suffered the worst wildfire season on record for the second year in a row in 2020, with greenhouse gas emissions from blazes rising to the highest ever. Last year a prolonged heatwave hit the region, which is warming almost three times as fast as the rest of the world. Thermometers in one town hit 38 degrees Celsius (100°F) in June and in July, while average temperatures were more than 5°C higher than the historical level.

Fire activity at the start of this season was more intense in regions that also posted higher-than-average temperatures, and lower where temperatures were cooler, according to Copernicus. 

Wildfire emissions in the area around the city of Tyumen in western Siberia were the second-highest between April 1 and May 24, while pollution around Omsk was the third-highest ever. In Canada, larger-than-average wildfires burnt in Manitoba and Ontario.

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