As paradoxical as that sounds, you heard right.
(In the Krasnoyarsk region, an Aerial Forest Protection Service member helps put out a forest fire / via Arctic Today)
The Arctic is burning. Yeah, you heard that right. As paradoxical as it sounds, the tundra at the top of the globe is not a winter wonderland. The fleecy snow is charred black. Permafrost and sea ice are melting away. And at the same time, the fires are releasing greenhouse gases. At this point, the earth really does seem to be fighting back.
According to The Washington Post, Siberia’s “Pole of Cold”, one of the coldest regions of the world, hit 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on June 20. Meanwhile, Dallas and Huston haven’t surged past 100 degrees this year. Other places in the Arctic like Ust’-Olenek, Russia, reached 93.7 degrees Fahrenheit, about 40 degrees above average, and the Siberian town of Khatanga reached 78 degrees Fahrenheit, about 46 degrees above normal.
The high temperatures over the last 15 years in the High Arctic were not predicted to occur for 70 more years, Vladimir Romanovsky, a researcher at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, said.
“We always expected the Arctic to change faster than the rest of the globe,” Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said. “But I don’t think anyone expected the changes to happen as fast as we are seeing them happen.”
What’re the effects of these fires?
Last year, Arctic fires also raged, but satellite observations show that the fires this year are releasing more greenhouse gasses than last year’s record.
The Arctic soils hold 1,460 billion to 1,600 billion metric tons of organic carbon, almost twice the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As the permafrost melts, this carbon may be released.
Sea ice near Siberia is at a record-low level since satellite monitoring began in 1979. Normally, snow and ice reflect solar radiation. As ice thaws, the land and ocean waters unearth. These dark surfaces absorb heat and in turn, fuel wildfires by perpetuating higher temperatures, melted snow and dry soil.
Why should you care?
Not only are Arctic homes built on the melting ground, but our lives are built on a burning planet.
While the Arctic may seem far away, studies have found that its warming influences extreme weather conditions worldwide. And as it becomes a net emitter of greenhouse gases, global warming advances even faster.
2020 is a year of revival, of awakening. It's time for us to realize that climate change is not some cute, tree-hugger issue. More natural disaster looms ahead, and what's happening in the Arctic is bound to play a part.
Katie Delk is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. Her simple pleasures include meditating, sitting beneath trees, writing poetry and blasting '70s music. She cares immensely about the earth, powerful women and social justice. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.