Natural Disasters

Global CO2 emissions from wildfires in July, August highest since 2003: Copernicus

The Mediterranean basin emerged as the wildfire hotspot that contributed to intense smoke pollution

 
By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 22 September 2021
Record-breaking CO2 emissions from wildfires in July, August: Report Photo: iStock

Carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires in the past two months touched a new high since 2003, from when records have been maintained. 

The cumulative CO2 emissions from violent forest fires in the two months was 2643.4 megatonnes, Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) announced September 21, 2021. 

Wildfires are common during the boreal (of the Northern Hemisphere) fire season that lasts from May to October. But the number of fires, their intensity, region covered and persistence were unusually high this year, said Mark Parrington, senior scientist and wildfire expert at CAMS implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

States in India also recorded some of their biggest wildfires since last year. Odisha, for instance, recorded 51,968 forest fires from November 2020 to June 2021 — the eastern state's highest. 

CAMS analyses data from its Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) collected using fire radiative power measurements from the MODIS satellite by National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The service uses these calculations to make estimates of daily global emissions from fires. 

Over half the 1258.8 megatonnes of CO2 released in July was attributed to fires in North America and Siberia, according to GFAS data. In August, 1384.6 megatonnes of CO2 was released into the atmosphere by wildfires. 

The Mediterranean basin emerged as the wildfire hotspot that contributed to intense smoke pollution. The countries in the region experienced dry conditions and heatwaves in 2021.

Forests in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, Algeria, Tunisia, vast expanses in Spain and Portugal were engulfed in flames this summer.

Intense wildfires in Siberia in 2021 “corresponds with increased temperatures and decreased soil moisture in the region”, according to the Corpernicus analysis. 

In Sakha Region in northeastern Russia, which is usually fire-prone, daily fire intensities surged past average levels since June and didn’t subside till early September, the scientists observed. This resulted in an emissions record on August 3, 2021, with net volume double the total for June to August the preceding year. 

Large-scale destruction and pollution was also observed in the western regions of North America, across Canadian, the Pacific Northwest and California throughout July and August. 

Northern California’s ‘Dixie Fire’ was the state’s biggest wildfire in history, according to CAMS. 

The satellites also captured “a clear plume of smoke moving across the north Atlantic” that was a mixture of fumes from wildfires in Siberia and North America, the report stated. 

“This happened as Saharan dust was travelling in the opposite direction across the Atlantic,” the scientists concluded. 

The smoke billows reached the British Isles late August and travelled over the rest of Europe, as observed by the satellites. 

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