A cloud of smoke and soot bigger than the European Union is billowing across Siberia as wildfires in the Arctic Circle rage into an unprecedented third month.
The normally frozen region, which is a crucial part of the planet’s cooling system, is spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and worsening the man-made climate disruption that created the tinderbox conditions.
A spate of huge fires in northern Russia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada discharged 50 megatonnes of CO2 in June and 79 megatonnes in July, far exceeding the previous record.
The intensity of the blazes continues with 25 megatonnes in the first 11 days of August – extending the duration beyond even the most persistent fires in the 17-year data set of Europe’s satellite monitoring system.
Dr. Mark Parrington, a scientist in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said the previous record was just a few weeks. 'We haven’t seen this before. The fire intensity is still well above average.'
He said the affected regions previously registered unusually high temperatures and a low level of soil moisture, which created the perfect conditions for ignition. Globally, June and July were the hottest months ever measured.
Russia has suffered most and last month, its president, Mr. Vladimir Putin, mobilised the army to fight the blazes and four Siberian regions declared a state of emergency. But fires continue to rage. An Earth observation scientist, Dr. Josef Aschbacher said that in Siberia alone, the two-month inferno had destroyed 4.3m hectares of taiga forest.