Arctic wildfires breach records

| 3rd September 2020 |
Arctic wildfires

Smoke from Arctic wildfires fills the sky.  

Carbon emissions from this year’s wildfires burning in the Arctic Circle have already outstripped 2019’s record.

Warmer and drier conditions have been prevalent again this summer. 

This summer’s wildfires in the Arctic have put record amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, experts have warned.

Carbon emissions from this year’s wildfires burning in the Arctic Circle have already outstripped 2019’s record levels and are the highest for the region in data going back to 2003, Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) said.

Scientists from the service, which is run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission, monitor wildfire activity across the world.


They have estimated that carbon dioxide emissions from the Arctic Circle from the beginning of the year were 244 million tonnes, up by a third on the 181 million tonnes for the whole of 2019.

Most of the increase in wildfires has been in Russia’s Sakha Republic, which falls partly within the Arctic Circle, with millions of acres of land damaged, the scientists said.

Across Eastern Russia as a whole, fires emitted approximately 540 million tonnes of carbon dioxide between June and August, surpassing the previous highest total emissions for the region, seen in 2003, they said.

Elsewhere in the world, a large region of the south-western USA has been hit by wildfires due to heatwave conditions, with large plumes of smoke seen moving eastward across the Great Lakes towards the North Atlantic.


California has seen the second and third worst fires in the state’s history, the data shows.

Mark Parrington, senior scientist and wildfire expert at CAMS, said: “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 carbon dioxide 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 Author

Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.

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