Russia’s Wildfires: Russia’s coldest city Yakutsk, most of Europe, and several parts of the US are engulfed by uncontrollable wildfires causing heatwaves in the countries.
- More than 6.5 million acres of land in Yakutia have been charred and the smoke of the wildfires is traveling to Alaska due to strong wind currents.
- Russia is experiencing a condition that scientists have been warning about for years.
- As per the experts, climate change and poor land management are the possible causes of this climatic disaster.
Impacts of wildfire smoke plumes on regional air quality:
- According to atmospheric monitoring agencies, a heatwave in one of the world’s coldest areas has triggered forest fires and threatened the Siberian city of Yakutsk with an “airpocalypse” of thick poisonous smoke.
- Yakutsk’s live air quality sensors recorded PM 2.5 readings of 395 micrograms.
- This was classified as an “airpocalypse,” which is described as having “immediate and severe impacts on everyone.”
- High amounts of particulate matter and pollutants such as ozone, benzene, and hydrogen cyanide are expected to make this one of the worst air pollution disasters in history.
- The 320,000 people have been advised to stay indoors to prevent inhaling the suffocating fumes from the fires, which are on track to exceed last year’s record.
- According to satellite analysts, regional levels of PM2.5 – tiny particles that may enter the bloodstream and harm human organs – have risen to more than 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in recent days, which is more than 40 times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended safe threshold.
What is fueling wildfires in Russia’s coldest city?
- The head of Greenpeace Russia says poor forest management, inadequate regulation, and budget cuts have increased the fire dangers.
- Experts state that climate change is fueling the massive wildfires in the Siberian republic of Sakha, also known as Yakutia.
- The regional officials highlighted that the average temperatures in June 2021 in the region crossed 20 degrees Celsius which is 5 degrees Celsius more than the average temperature in the region.
- Rising temperature coupled with record drought and precipitation levels 16 times lower than normal has fueled the wildfires in Yakutia.
Other wildfires across the world:
British Columbia Wildfire:
- British Columbia has declared a state of emergency due to wildfires.
- Thomas Smith, an Assistant Professor in Environmental Geography, London School of Economics said that the fire season is getting longer, the fires are getting larger, and they are burning more intensely than ever before.
- The Bootleg wildfire in Oregon, US has burned nearly 475,000 acres of land and the dense smoke is traveling around 3,000 miles across the other end of the continent.
- Extreme dry, heat conditions and strong winds are fueling the wildfires in the Western US all the way to the East Coast including New York City.
A wildfire is defined as an uncontrollable fire that engulfs forests, grasslands, peatlands, etc.
- Wildfires can be caused by natural factors such as global warming, dry humid climate, dried-out vegetation, lightning, volcanic eruption, and also human activities.
- Historically, the wildfire season occurs between May and October when the conditions become extremely hot, dry, and humid.
- Mostly wildfires have been prevalent during summers but climate change, heatwaves, droughts have increased the occurrence and duration of wildfires dramatically.
Climate change is increasing the risk of wildfires:
- Studies by experts have shown that climate change is increasing the risk of wildfires at an alarming rate globally.
- Climate change is assisting in the creation of circumstances conducive to greater fires in northern boreal forests in Siberia, Canada, and northern Europe, which are all warming faster than the world average.
- This follows a global pattern of fires shifting from grasslands to fuel-rich woods, which produce more carbon.
- As per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change increases the possibilities of storms, droughts, and other weather anomalies.
- Weather events that were once happening every 100 years are now occurring every 10 years.
- This is leading to an increased frequency of fires.
- As the temperature of the planet increases, the rate of evaporation increases thus drawing out more moisture from plants and causing drying out of vegetation.
- Such conditions coupled with droughts, dry, hot, and humid weather conditions can increase the risk of severe and longer wildfires.