Recent Wildfires in Northeastern Russia Hit Record-Breaking Emissions Levels

Copernicus Biogeosciences, July 14

Total carbon emissions from widespread wildfires in northeastern Russia reached an all-time record high already in July, still early in the summer fire season. Rising global atmospheric and ground temperatures increase the frequency of these fires, which also accelerate thawing of Siberian permafrost. This releases additional carbon, adding to that released from the fires themselves; and further accelerating global warming. Sediments in Lake Khamra, Siberia, contain layers of accumulated charcoal that reveal the frequency and scale of regional wildfires over the past two thousand years. This sediment record suggests that massive wildfires, in 600-900 CE and since around 1750, coincided with higher global temperatures and drier conditions. The latter period also occurred with migration of ethnic Russians into the region, with different agro-forestry methods that likely included fire use. The recent wildfires in eastern Siberia are expected to cause changes in local vegetation, spurring an increase in evergreen trees and grasses. The dangers and consequences associated with wildfires are projected to increase if human carbon emissions continue to rise.