Boreal forests burning at a rate not seen in 10,000 years

The boreal forests form a ring of trees around the North Pole. These forests house around 30% of the world’s trees. This forest exists in Russia, Canada, the USA, Finland and Norway.

Usually, because of their location, fires in this part of the world are far smaller. However what should be remembered is the effects of global warming at the poles are far higher than most other latitudes and now significant parts of the boreal forests are suffering significant fires.

Satellite images show huge fires in Canada, Greenland and Russia. Of greater concern these fires are also burning peat, a substance that makes up a great deal of of the soil under these trees – and which stores vast quantities of carbon. Indeed in places where peat exists the loss of carbon from the peat can be tens of times greater than the loss of carbon from the trees that held the peat stable.

These fires are not small, having already burnt 1.6 million acres (2,700 square miles, about a third of the area of Wales). It is estimated that the amount of carbon released since the beginning of June is about 100 megatons, or or the equivalent Belgium’s 2017 entire emissions.

The average June temperature in Siberia this year was 10 degrees higher than the 1980 to 2010 temperature average.

This is another of the predicted impacts of global warming, and is a form of the feedback loop, as more trees burning means more CO2 emissions which leads to higher temperatures and therefore the likelihood of more fires in the future.

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