Forests around the world are burning – From Siberia to Canada to the West of the United States, increasingly intense fires are devastating hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests with unprecedented violence and speed, an extreme manifestation of the consequences of global warming.

In the largest and coldest Russian region, the Yakutia, in Siberia, the anomalous combination of high temperatures and prolonged drought unleashed a hell of flames that in three weeks destroyed over 800,000 hectares of coniferous and tundra forests, in remote areas inaccessible to firefighters, releasing huge amount of carbon dioxide. Smoke from the fires has reached the city of Yakutsk, shrouded in a really unusual gray fog at those latitudes – in winter the temperatures drop to -50/70 degrees – so thick as to prevent air traffic. Local authorities have given the order to the 320,000 residents in the affected areas to stay at home to avoid breathing the fumes from the fires, which are already destined to exceed the record recorded last year in this period. Last month was the hottest and driest in 133 years, with 39 degrees in the district of Gorny and only 2 mm of rain in 30 days.

Columns of smoke up to Alaska

The fires were so powerful and the winds strong that columns of smoke traveled all the way to’Alaska. “Obviously there is only one reason for what is happening and that is global climate change,” Yakutia governor Aisen Nikolaev told Ria Novosti.

It is the second year that the fire season in Siberia is so intense, forcing firefighters to find new strategies to put out higher and higher flames, which spread faster and faster. In Eastern Siberia, the succession of such devastating fires, in areas never hit in the past, in an ever shorter period of time – previously occurring every 100-150 years, currently every 10-30 years and now for two consecutive years – no longer allows the forests to regenerate, also because they burn with increasing intensity, first for about ten days, last month for over three weeks. Since early 2021, fires in the Yakutia region have destroyed over 2.6 million hectares of land and forest, the equivalent of 5 million football fields, according to official data from the Siberian Forest Air Protection Service. .

Fueling the vicious circle of fires is climate change as well as carbon emissions into the atmosphere from burning trees, making the crisis worse.

Heat and drought are the main causes

Heat waves, prolonged drought and strong winds have created the same favorable conditions for fires in the western province of Columbia Britannica in Canada, forced to declare a state of emergency and put 32,000 residents on alert. There too 3,000 firefighters are fighting against 300 fires active at the same time, stimulated by the hot and dry climate and by the winds that will continue for a few days. About 3,000 square kilometers of forest have already gone up in smoke in British Columbia, more than three times the average area typically burned this time of year.

In the West of the United States, it is the Southwestern Oregon to burn: eight maxi fires razed over 192,000 hectares of forest to the ground, in a season already defined by the media and authorities as “unprecedented” due to the extent of the fires. More than 2,000 local firefighters are involved in the emergency, aided by colleagues from Arkansas, Nevada and Alaska.

The fires on the West Coast

Currently 78 fires are still active on the West Coast and the smoke produced by the Bootleg Fire together with that from Canada are threatening the health of millions of Americans. Pushed by strong winds, these fumes are moving throughout the country, even reaching the west coast. Toxic fumes are significantly worsening air quality, with health risks for people already suffering from diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis. Even New York State has issued a warning – twice in the past few days – for the presence of a high number of particles produced by the fires that have smoked the air, producing a red sun and enveloping the Manhattan skyline in thick clouds of smoke.



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