Last month was the world’s worst July for wildfires since satellite records began in 2003, according to the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which estimates carbon releases.
Driven by extreme heat and prolonged drought, the ignition of forests and grasslands released 343 megatonnes of carbon, about a fifth higher than the previous global peak for July, which was set in 2014.
More than half of the carbon came from two regions – North America and Siberia – that have experienced unusually hot and dry weather, with a number of records broken.
CAMS said that in North America, California, Oregon and Washington have been the worst-affected US states.
Estimated total carbon emissions from Oregon fires for June and July were more than double that of any year since the beginning of the CAMS fire emissions dataset in 2003.
Further north, a number of Canadian Provinces (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario) have been experiencing intense fires since the end of June. Over the last two months, fires in British Columbia and Ontario have emitted more carbon than any year since 2003.
The agency added that temperatures in the western US have been above average for most of the past year. More recently, the warmer-than-average region extended further north and east into southern and central Canada. This was accompanied by below-average soil moisture and precipitation. The western US states have continuously experienced unusually dry conditions over the past year and in many cases even further back in time, according to CAMS.
The dry conditions have also been extending further north and then east over the past few months. These drier-than-average conditions are consistent with the fire activity in North America.
“California has now experienced around 10 to 15 years of drought, and we are starting to see the same narrative in other states,” explains CAMS Senior Scientist Mark Parrington. “It is likely that dry conditions are resulting in more intense fires that are difficult to control.”
In Siberia, much of the taiga in the Sakha Republic has been engulfed in flames and clouds of smoke that have drifted as far as the north pole.
According to CAMS, the Sakha Republic in Siberia is currently experiencing more extreme fire activity than any other part of Russia.
CAMS said it has observed that activity in the republic has been persistently higher than the 2003–2020 average since mid-June.
In terms of the estimated total amount of carbon emitted during the boreal fire season months of June, July and August, CAMS data show that the fires in the Sakha Republic have already emitted more carbon than any other year since 2003, apart from 2020.
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