Researchers at ABoVE (NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment) have recently studied the causes of Arctic wildfires and their impacts around the globe. Elizabeth Hoy, a boreal fire researcher and rest of the team at ABoVE dug out and examined a block of soil in Saskatchewan, Canada during a field expedition. ABoVE concluded that soils in the boreal and Arctic region have relatively thicker organic mats. Consequently, when a wildfire burns them, it releases large quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, which as a result increases global warming.
Since the start of June, the Arctic, region around the North Pole, has been at the receiving end of more than 100 such wildfires. The weather and climate monitoring service of United Nations, however, has labeled the Arctic fires as “unprecedented”. Fires in the mid-latitude areas are normally put-out as fast as possible because they’re a direct threat to human life and property. But, since the fires in tundra and boreal forests are far away from human population, and since they’re either ignited by lightning or scorching heat, the area is normally left to burn unless it becomes an immediate threat to human life or infrastructure.
The most alarming aspect of these wildfires, however, is that their impacts are felt around the globe. It’s evident that fires in the Arctic are impacted by Global Warming, but they’re also threatening human health and wildlife, changing landscapes, and in turn contributing to greater climate changes. According to NASA, a single fire season in Canada recently was a source of so much carbon emission that it negated half of the positive effects of annual tree growth across Canada’s forests. Apart from the changes in vegetation composition of the land, the wildfires release a lot of smoke and particulate matter which travels far by wind, causing cardiovascular and respiratory problems in humans.
While these wildfires happen and stay in the Arctic, their dark impacts do not. There’s a ripple effect to the changes taking place there, and they go beyond the Arctic, impacting the whole globe.