Siberian wildfires and the Arctic ice melt in the media

Siberian wildfires and the Arctic ice melt in the media

19 million ha (47 million 

acres) of land scorched as 

wildfires continue to rage in 


19 million ha (47 million acres) of land scorched as wildfires continue to rage in Siberia


20 July, 2020

Major cities in Russia are covered in haze and smoke as mega wildfires continue to rage through Siberia.

According to satellite monitoring data, fires have torched 19 million ha (47 million acres) of the area since the beginning of 2020– an area bigger than Greece. About 10 million ha (25 million acres) of these suffered forest fires.

Much of the blaze is happening in the remote areas of Far Eastern Russia and Eastern Siberia. 

Last week, harmful haze from fires covered the cities of Yakutsk, Urgorsk, and Sovetsky, as well as many other smaller towns and villages. The air quality has been affected, which raised concerns that it further aggravated respiratory issues.


Several wildfires in the Sakha Republic on July 20, 2020. Image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, Pierre Markuse


Image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, Pierre Markuse


Image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, Pierre Markuse


Siberia wildfires on July 20, 2020. Image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, Annamaria Luongo

While some of these forest fires were sparked by lightning, others were started on the river banks that were most probably a consequence of campfires, according to Greenpeace Russia campaigners.

Another common cause of wildfires in Siberia and Far Eastern Russia are large-scale prescribed burnings that became difficult to control, and the legal requirement enforced on logging companies to destroy logging leftovers.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also took note of prolonged heatwave in Siberia

Featured image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, Pierre Markuse

Why Arctic sea ice just 

crashed to an extreme, 

record low


22 July, 2020

Arctic sea ice — declining now for decades — has plummeted to a record-low for this time of year. The oceans above Russia and Siberia have a particularly glaring lack of ice. 

“Right now it’s quite extreme,” said Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center..

To appreciate the exceptional loss of ice, take a look at the map below. The orange line shows where ice typically is on July 19. Clearly, the sea ice is vastly diminished.

Record low Arctic sea ice extent.

Record low Arctic sea ice extent.


Sea ice is the lowest on record along the Siberian side of the Arctic, especially in the Laptev Sea, noted Zachary Labe, a climate scientist at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science. In total, Arctic sea ice is about 500,000 square kilometers (some 193,000 square miles) under the previous record low for this time of year.

“Once again, we are seeing a truly remarkable event within the Arctic Circle,” said Labe.

A number of factors stoked the recent Arctic sea ice crash. These factors are largely influenced by the relentlessly warming climate.

  • An extreme heat wave recently hit the Siberian region, with a Russian town reaching 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic Circle. This heat likely melted sea ice above Siberia, too, explained Meier. Warm temperatures cause water to pool on the surface of sea ice, accelerating melt. “Everything amplifies when you get that heat early in the season,” said Meier.

  • There are now vast regions of open water, which also amplify Arctic heating and ice melt. “Due to the wide open ocean, which would normally still be sea ice-covered, sea surface temperatures are rising more than 5 C (9 F) above average as sunshine (heat) is absorbed into the water,” explained Labe. Water temperatures are well above freezing in waters above Siberia, at some 40 F. “That’s really warm for the Arctic,” said Meier.

  • Sea ice was significantly thinner than average this winter, meaning ice melts more easily during the summer. 

  • Winds blowing from the south pushed sea ice away from the usually ice-blanketed coast.

It’s much too early to say if Arctic sea ice overall will fall to a record low extent this year (an event that occurs in September, known as the “sea ice minimum”). Though, it’s now starting to look “ominous” said Meier. 

SEE ALSO: The devious fossil fuel propaganda we all use

Yet, record or not, the big picture is already clear, and becoming clearer:

The extreme ice loss this July is yet more stark evidence of a profoundly changed, and changing, globe.

“Without a large-scale reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, these types of extreme events will become more frequent in the 21st century,” said Labe. “2020 is another alarm bell.”

Some ot the best information, apart from my own (and Margo’s monitoring) comes from Twitter these days

This a graph of Siberia’s fires

CO2 levels have recently reached as high as 418 ppm

One thought on “Siberian wildfires and the Arctic ice melt in the media

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