Arctic wildfires are raging across the region, the EU’s climate service says.

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, The last time the city of Sakha in Russia experienced forest fires was in 2021

  • author, Malo Corcino
  • Role, BBC News

The European Union’s climate change observatory – Copernicus – reports that forest fires are ravaging the Arctic Circle again.

This is the third time in the past five years that very intense fires have swept the region.

In a statement released on Thursday, Copernicus reported that high air temperatures and dry conditions in Sakha, Russia, provide ideal conditions for wildfires to break out once a spark is ignited.

More than 160 forest fires have affected nearly 460,000 hectares of land as of June 24, Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted the region’s deputy minister of ecology, management and forestry as saying.

Scientists are concerned that smoke from the fires will hinder the ability of Arctic ice to reflect solar radiation, meaning the land and sea absorb more heat.

The Arctic is “ground zero for climate change”, Professor Gill Whiteman of the University of Exeter told the BBC.

“The increasing wildfires in Siberia are a clear warning sign that this key system is approaching dangerous climate tipping points,” she said.

She added, “What is happening in the Arctic is not limited to what exists,” noting that these fires “serve as a warning cry for urgent action.”

“A decade ago, Arctic wildfires were considered rare events, and were rarely studied. Now they occur throughout the summer and with increasing burn scars,” he told the BBC.

As temperatures rise in the Arctic due to climate change, wildfires have moved north, burning boreal forests and tundra, releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases from carbon-rich organic soils.

According to estimates from the Copernicus results, carbon emissions from wildfires throughout June were the third highest in the past two decades at 6.8 megatonnes of carbon – behind only the fires in 2020 and 2019.

Carbon emissions in those years amounted to 16.3 and 13.8 megatons, respectively.

Mark Barrington, chief scientist at CAMS, said the conditions that led to the latest wave of fires were similar to those that existed during the 2019 and 2020 fires.

In 2021, forest fires also swept through the Sakha region, but they were less severe than the fires in 2020 and 2019.

Separately, Arctic sea ice has been declining rapidly since the 1980s.

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