Firefighters in both countries, as well as in British Columbia in Canada, are waging a nearly impossible battle to extinguish the hellfire with water bombs and hoses, and stop their spread by digging firebrakes.
Smoke was so thick in Siberia’s Yukutia republic on Tuesday that reconnaissance pilot Svyatoslav Kolesov could not do his job. There was no way for him to fly his plane in such low visibility.
Kolesov is a senior air observation post pilot in the Far Eastern Russian region of Yakutia. This part of Siberia is prone to wildfires, with large parts of the region covered with forests. But Kolesov told Granthshala the flames are different this year.
“There are new fires in the north of Yakutia in places where there was no fire last year and where it didn’t burn at all,” he said.
Kolesov is seeing for the first time what scientists have been warning about for years. Forest fires are getting bigger and more intense and they are happening even in places that are not used to them.
“The fire season is getting longer, the fires are getting bigger, they are burning more intensely than ever,” said Thomas Smith, assistant professor of environmental geography at the London School of Economics.
Wildfires in Yakutia have consumed more than 6.5 million acres since the beginning of the year, according to data published by the country’s Aerial Forest Protection Service. This is about 5 million football fields.
Canada’s British Columbia province on Wednesday declared a state of emergency due to wildfires there. About 300 active wildfires have been reported in the province.
Forest fires are part of a vicious cycle. Climate change is not only fueling the fires, but their burning is releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere, making the crisis even worse.
Some scientists say this year’s fires are particularly bad.
“As of mid-July, total projected emissions exceed the sum of previous years for the summer period, so this is showing that this is a very persistent problem,” said Mark Parrington, senior scientist at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
He said Yakutia has been experiencing continuous high-intensity fires since the last few days of June.
“If I look at the time series, we see similar levels of intensity, but not for three weeks, you know, I think the longest time was probably a couple of weeks or 10 days or something like that, so much more. different,” he said, adding that the fire season usually lasts until mid-August, so it is likely that the fires may continue.
more frequent and more intense
Smith said that Siberia and parts of Canada have always been prone to wildfires, but what is worrying is that the fires are now becoming so much more.
“Once upon a time, you had a fire in one place every 100 to 150 years, which means the forest is completely regenerated and you end up with a mature forest, and then the fire comes along, And then you start all over again,” he said. .
“We’re seeing in parts of eastern Siberia that there are fires in some places every 10 to 30 years, and that means the forest isn’t going to mature, and you end up with one. [ecosystem] to shift to a type of scrubland or swampy meadow.”
New areas are also coming under fire due to heat wave and drought.
“In the Siberian Arctic, we are concerned about the tundra ecosystem to the north of the forest, it would normally be too wet or frozen to burn,” Smith said. “We’ve seen a lot of fires in this ecosystem over the past two years, which suggests that things are changing out there.”
It also has serious, long-term effects on the climate. Ash from fires can also accelerate global warming by darkening surfaces that would normally be lighter in color and reflect more solar radiation.
Areas affected by these fires also include peatlands, which are some of the most effective carbon sinks on the planet, Parrington said.
“If they’re burning, it’s releasing carbon,” Parrington said. “It’s removing a carbon storage system that’s been around for thousands of years and so potentially has an impact.”
Granthshala’s Zarah Ullah, Anna Chernova and Daria Tarasova and Augusta Anthony in Moscow contributed to this report.
Credit : cnn.it