"Arctic wildfires emitted as much CO2 as Sweden does in a year"
July 15, 2019 | 3:39 PM
by Agencies
Supplied photo.

New York: Unprecedented Arctic wildfires in June alone emitted as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as Sweden's total annual emissions, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

According to WMO, since the start of June the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) has tracked over 100 intense and long-lived wildfires in the Arctic Circle. The fires emitted 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The amount is not only equal Sweden's total annual emissions but is more than the amount released by Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined.

Although wildfires are common in the northern hemisphere between May and October, the latitude and intensity of these fires, as well as the length of time that they have been burning for, has been particularly unusual, according to CAMS Senior Scientist and wildfires expert, Mark Parrington.

UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq noted that “unusually hot and dry conditions have contributed to the spread of wildfires” with Alaska having its 2nd hottest June and hitting a record high of 32°C, or 90°F, a week ago.

“WMO says the northern part of the world is warming faster than the planet as a whole. That heat is drying out forests and making them more susceptible to burn,” Haq added.

According to WMO, the ongoing Arctic fires have been most severe in Alaska and Siberia, where some have been large enough to cover almost 100,000 football pitches, or the whole of Lanzarote. In Alberta, Canada, one fire is estimated to have been bigger than 300 000 pitches. In Alaska alone, CAMS has registered almost 400 wildfires this year, with new ones igniting every day.

In view of the risks, WMO initiated the Vegetation Fire and Smoke Pollution Warning and Advisory System to harmonise fire forecasting across the globe and to provide a better picture of related impacts and hazards.

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