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Songs of Ice and Fire: Stark satellite images show how wildfires continue to rage across the Arctic

Stretches of the Arctic, Siberia, Alaska and Greenland have continued to burn after a number of wildfires have been fuelled by unusually hot temperatures.

Blazes often burst out in the areas when lightning strikes and scorches the earth, but this year it has been increased due to above average heat brought about by climate change.

The aggressive spread of the fires have been spearheaded by dry ground, warmer than usual temperatures, as well as lightning and strong wind.

It has also been assisted by combustible forest ground – made up chiefly of dried peat.

The destruction has been documented by imaging expert Pierre Markuse, who transforms grainy raw satellite images into high-fidelity snapshots.

The shots reveal the breadth of fires – which are blanketing expanses of wilderness under shrouds of smoke.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the scope of Arctic wildfires are ‘unprecedented,’ with the agency logging more than 100 intense examples throughout the Arctic Circle.

Fires have been raging the hardest in the Arctic and Siberia, the WMO said, and were big enough to constitute 100,000 football pitches – roughly the size of Lanzarote.

A satellite picture shows the fire peaks over Siberia on Thursday and the large plumes of smoke they have generated. The fires int he Arctic Circle have affected an area the size of 100,000 football pitches

A satellite picture shows the fire peaks over Siberia on Thursday and the large plumes of smoke they have generated. The fires int he Arctic Circle have affected an area the size of 100,000 football pitches

This month, temperatures hit record highs for Alaska, soaring to 90F (32C) on July 4 – fuelling fires along the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote in a recent blog post: ‘Alaska has just come to the end of a period of warmth that re-wrote the record books for multiple cities and communities across the state.

‘And crazy enough, it was one of several jaw dropping climate events taking place across our largest state.’

Pierre Markuse uses a number of techniques to enhance satellite images. The results are high fidelity portraits of Earth's landscape and the natural events that shape it. Pictured: 'Swan Lake Fire', five mile northeast of Sterling, Alaska

Pierre Markuse uses a number of techniques to enhance satellite images. The results are high fidelity portraits of Earth’s landscape and the natural events that shape it. Pictured: ‘Swan Lake Fire’, five mile northeast of Sterling, Alaska

Smoke not only endangers people's respiratory health, it can blanket ice and snow in the Arctic, leading to increased melt. Pictured: Several wildfires over Alaska, west of Fairbanks, Alaska

Smoke not only endangers people’s respiratory health, it can blanket ice and snow in the Arctic, leading to increased melt. Pictured: Several wildfires over Alaska, west of Fairbanks, Alaska

In Greenland, fires sprouted up last week, marking only the second time in three years wildfires have been witnessed there.

There is very little historic precedent for fires to continue on the icy territory, according to Gizmodo, but risks of additional ones in Greenland remain high to very high throughout the next week.

Despite the fires mainly ravaging wasteland, its effect has widened as smoke has blown over cities in Russia, which has greatly reduced the air quality.

Despite the fires mainly ravaging wasteland, its effect has widened as smoke has blown over cities in Russia (pictured, Kemerovo, south Siberia, yesterday), reducing the air quality

Despite the fires mainly ravaging wasteland, its effect has widened as smoke has blown over cities in Russia (pictured, Kemerovo, south Siberia, yesterday), reducing the air quality

Smoke from forest fires in the city of Kemerovo in south Siberia (pictured) after large areas of West Siberia have been hit by wildfires

Smoke from forest fires in the city of Kemerovo in south Siberia (pictured) after large areas of West Siberia have been hit by wildfires

In Greenland (Qeqqata Kommunia fire, pictured), fires sprouted up last week, marking only the second time in three years wildfires have been witnessed there

In Greenland (Qeqqata Kommunia fire, pictured), fires sprouted up last week, marking only the second time in three years wildfires have been witnessed there

The smog has even reached the Tyumen region in western Siberia – six time zones away from the east coast fires.

In addition to blanketing the region in smoke and razing acres of trees, wildfires also pour significant carbon into the atmosphere.

That carbon can have substantial impacts on climate change says the WMO.

Humans are also at immediate risk, even those that live far away from where the blazes continue to smoulder.

The WMO said: ‘In addition to the direct threat from burning, wildfires also release harmful pollutants including particulate matter and toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and non-methane organic compounds into the atmosphere.

(pictured, Sakha Republic, Russia, on July 22)

(pictured, Sakha Republic, Russia, on July 22)

‘Particles and gases from burning biomass can be carried over long distances, affecting air quality in regions far away.’

Last month alone, the fires put out around 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, which is about the same as what Sweden produces yearly.

Fires in the Arctic Circle are frequent between May and October and the ecosystem has adapted to them, according to the Alaska Centers website.

Fires in the Arctic (pictures, Qeqqata Kommunia, Greenland) are frequent between May and October and the ecosystem has adapted to them, according to the Alaska Centers website

Fires in the Arctic (pictures, Qeqqata Kommunia, Greenland) are frequent between May and October and the ecosystem has adapted to them, according to the Alaska Centers website

But the intensity of these fires, as well as the large area they have taken up, make these unusual.

The WMO in a statement: ‘Although wildfires are common in the northern hemisphere between May and October, the latitude and intensity of these fires, as well as the length of time that they have been burning for, has been particularly unusual.’ 

In a surprising move, Russia (pictured, a fire burns in the Mirninsky District of the Sakha Republic) is not tackling the fires, arguing it would be more expensive to quell the fire than pay for the damages caused

In a surprising move, Russia (pictured, a fire burns in the Mirninsky District of the Sakha Republic) is not tackling the fires, arguing it would be more expensive to quell the fire than pay for the damages caused

Climatologists are using satellites to follow the fires as they burn across the Arctic Circle.

They warn the fires pose a big risk to snow and ice: as fires rage, permafrost melt can accelerate causing glaciers to fall into the ocean.

In addition to contributing to sea level rise, experts warn that methane gas trapped in the ice will also be released by the ice melt, further compounding the problem.

HOW ARE WILDFIRES STARTED?

The amount of land in North America devastated by wildfires each year is set to rise, according to new research (file photo)

The amount of land in North America devastated by wildfires each year is set to rise, according to new research (file photo)

The ‘Thomas Fire’ destroyed 281,893 acres in California last December.

Additionally, British Columbia’s Nazko Complex Fire last year consumed more than a million acres, making it the largest ever recorded in the province.

But the amount of land destroyed by wildfires each year will only go up in western and northern North America in the years to come, according to a new report published in the journal Plos One.

Up to 90 percent of US wildfires are caused by people, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

These fires can be initiated by unattended campfires, piles of burning debris, haphazardly discarded cigarettes or arson.

The remaining tenth of wildfires not started by humans are attributed to either lighting or lava.

In a surprising move, Russia is not tackling the fires, arguing it would be more expensive to quell the fire than pay for the damages caused.

The press service of the Krasnoyarsk Region forestry ministry told a Siberian news website: ‘They do not threaten any settlements or the economy.’

But the government have faced a backlash from the people, with the hashtags #putouttheSiberianfires and #saveSiberianforests trending on Twitter.

One Twitter user wrote: ‘Remember how far the news about the Notre Dame fire spread? Now is the time to do the same about the Siberian forest fires.’

Another added: ‘Let’s not forget that nature is no less important than history. Numerous animals have lost their homes, and many of them are probably dead. Just thinking about this is painful.’      

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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