Devastating wildfires led to record-high emissions this summer

A wildfire is seen at night on Sierra Bermeja Mountain in southern Spain, on Sept 10, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) - Blazes in the Mediterranean basin, North America and Siberia resulted in the highest level of carbon emissions from wildfires ever recorded during summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

The fires released a record 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in July and 1.4 billion tons in August, according to a report by Europe's Earth observation agency Copernicus.

Just under a third of the emissions came from blazes in Russia.

"While the local weather conditions play a role in the actual fire behaviour, climate change is helping provide the ideal environments for wildfires," said Dr Mark Parrington, senior scientist at the ECMWF Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.

"What stood out as unusual was the number of fires, the size of the areas in which they were burning, their intensity and also their persistence."

Scientists expect wildfires to become more frequent and intense as the planet warms.

The largest blazes this summer happened during or right after record-breaking heatwaves and under extraordinarily dry conditions.

More are expected in coming weeks, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, where the fire season in the Amazon and other parts of Latin America is ongoing.

In Turkey, Copernicus satellites registered the highest levels of fire intensity on record during blazes that killed at least nine people at the end of July and early August.

High concentrations of polluting fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, were also visible from space.

In Russia's Sakha Republic, where wildfires are frequent in summer months, satellites registered a new record on Aug 3 when emissions for the day were more than double those for June, July and August of last year combined.

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