Wildfires in the Arctic: 6.8 Megatonnes of Carbon Emitted in June 2024


Large parts of the Arctic are experiencing severe wildfires this summer, with particularly intense fires in Russia’s Sakha Republic, a region in Siberia known for its cold temperatures.

In June 2024 alone, these wildfires released 6.8 megatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Why is this Happening?

Typically, the Sakha Republic has very cold temperatures, with an average yearly temperature of -7.5°C (18.5°F).

Even during the summer, temperatures usually range between 0°C and 10°C (32°F and 50°F).

However, recent years have seen unusually warm and dry weather, leading to an increase in wildfires.

The summer of 2021 was particularly notable for its high temperatures and widespread fires, setting a precedent for this year’s severe conditions.

Comparing Past Wildfire Seasons

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), the carbon emissions from these wildfires are the third highest in the past 20 years.

Only June 2020 and June 2019 saw higher emissions, with 16.3 and 13.8 megatonnes of carbon respectively.

Mark Parrington, a Senior Scientist at CAMS, explained that while the past few summers had typical levels of fire activity, this year’s fires are a result of warmer and drier conditions, similar to those in 2019 and 2020.

Impact on the Environment

The wildfires have a significant impact on the environment.

The burning forests release large amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing to the greenhouse effect and further warming the planet.

Additionally, the fires produce smoke and other pollutants that can travel vast distances, affecting air quality and health far from the fire’s origin.

CAMS provided analyses showing the transport of smoke across the Arctic and high northern latitudes between June 10 and 26, 2024.

The Role of Climate Change

These frequent and intense wildfires are closely linked to global climate change.

The Arctic is warming at least four times faster than the rest of the planet.

This region has seen the most significant increase in extreme wildfires over the last two decades, indicating a dangerous climate tipping point.

Higher temperatures and drier conditions create a perfect environment for wildfires to ignite and spread rapidly.

Gail Whiteman, a Professor at the University of Exeter and founder of Arctic Basecamp, emphasized the global risks: “The Arctic is ground zero for climate change, and the increasing Siberian wildfires are a clear warning sign.

What happens in the Arctic affects the entire world.

These fires are a call for urgent action.”

Whiteman highlighted that Arctic changes amplify risks globally, making it essential to address these issues urgently.

Wildfires in Other Regions

The Arctic isn’t the only region suffering.

South America is also experiencing intense wildfires, especially in the Pantanal wetlands, the world’s largest tropical wetland spanning Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

This area is seeing its most severe wildfire season in two decades due to an extremely dry wet season.

The wet season, typically a time for the Pantanal to replenish its moisture, was unusually dry, setting the stage for extensive fires.

In summary, the severe wildfires in the Arctic and other parts of the world are a stark reminder of the urgent need to address climate change.

The increasing frequency and intensity of these fires highlight the critical state of our global climate.

Immediate action is required to mitigate these impacts and prevent further environmental degradation.