Russia’s forest fires – just how bad?

Friday 8 Oct 2021

In mid-August, the leader of the Republic of Sakha, in Russia, told residents not to go outside, and to avoid breathing unfiltered air if at all possible. Wildfire smoke filled the streets of Yakutsk, reducing visibility to less than a block. Smoke spread to the North Pole for the first time ever. It spread across the Pacific Ocean. Fires in California this year stunned forest stewards with their size and intensity. But they look puny compared to the fires raging in Siberia.

We don’t yet know how much land has been consumed by wildfires this season, that satellite data is still coming in. A report from Greenpeace, based on statistics from Russian fire services, estimates that 65,000 square miles have burned — more than six times the area burned in the United States so far this year. At their peak, in August, 190 blazes were spreading across Sakha and Chukotka, Russia’s farthest northeastern regions.

In July and August, wildfires in northeastern Russia released 806 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to a new report from Copernicus, the European Union’s satellite program. “That’s more carbon than the emissions of the entire country of Germany, one of the largest economies in the world,” observed James MacCarthy, a mapping expert who keeps an eye on the state of the world’s woodlands for Global Forest Watch. “And you are looking at a trend that’s increasing.”

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Source: grist

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