It’s been going on for a few seasons now. Peat fires have been an annual phenomenon in Siberia since time immemorial, but in recent years they have been on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, hundreds of different fires were detected and nearly three million hectares were burned, an area the size of Belgium. In addition, more than 250 megatons of carbon dioxide2 For free, about the same as the annual emissions of a country like Spain.
Climate scientists are not surprised by the increase in peat fires in this Arctic region. This pattern fits with a warming world where a variety of factors such as higher temperatures, drier soils, and longer growing seasons increase the chances of fires. But what exactly is the relationship? To what extent does chance play a role?
It was not easy for Spanish researchers to try to answer these questions. Satellites recorded the fires, but the data is poor. In addition, there are factors that reduce the chances of fire and factors not related to climate change, such as precipitation or lightning flashes that start a fire.
2019 and 2020 were extreme years
The researchers collected all satellite data from fires in northern Siberia between 1982 and 2020 and searched for connections with computer models. From this analysis, not only did 2019 and 2020 turn out to be extreme years – there were nearly as many CO2 in these two years.2 Free as in the previous 36 years. The relationship with global warming was also clear.
And they wrote in a professional magazine on Thursday that this is not a linear relationship Sciences. The factors reinforce each other. For example, a higher temperature ensures greater plant growth in the spring. These plants then dry out further in the summer and thus form an ideal breeding ground for fires. According to the Spaniards, the relationship is exponential and according to their analysis, we are almost at a critical limit, after which the fires will increase exponentially.
Eleven days of heat wave
According to them, this limit is the average summer temperature of ten degrees. In 2019 and 2020, average temperatures were more than 11 degrees, which is more than two and a half degrees above the average recorded in the period since 1982. In the early summer of 2020, the town of Verkhoyansk experienced an 11-degree heat wave. . days, peaking on June 20 at 38 degrees.
Those summers may have been exceptional, but it’s not entirely coincidental Dutch researchers (from the Free University and KNMI) in the same number of Sciences. Due to the high temperature, the snow melts earlier than before, so that the soil temperature rises sooner. This, in turn, ensures that the jet streams supplying warm air from the south start early.
He writes that these are disturbing developments Sciences in accompanying article. Peatlands are still known as a large storage reservoir for greenhouse gases. The entire Arctic region stores about 100 megatons annually. Because of the fires, peatlands have changed from a storehouse to a source of carbon dioxide in recent years2. In addition, the peat layer acts as a kind of insulating blanket for the permafrost below. When it melts, large amounts of carbon dioxide are released2 and methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. This would enhance the amplification effect even more.
Terrifying news about climate tipping points, but there is hope too
if Change in the climate system It strengthens itself as soon as a certain point is passed, the situation changes dramatically and irreversibly.
Siberian ice is melting due to rapid climate change
It’s hot in Siberia. This is called permafrost, Under the forever frozen ground in the areaIt melts faster and deeper than ever before. This has dire consequences.
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