Saturday, August 17, 2013

Siberian heat wave leads to wildfires

The Kitsap Sun: An intense heat wave in Siberia has contributed to an unusual flare up of wildfires across the fragile and carbon-rich landscape. Smoke from the fires is lofting high into the atmosphere, and is drifting toward the Arctic, where soot can hasten the melting of snow and sea ice.

The Siberian city of Norilsk, the most northerly city in the world with a population greater than 100,000, recorded temperatures above 83F over eight consecutive days starting on July 18, according to blogger Chris Burt of Weather Underground. During that timespan, Burt reported, the mercury hit 90F, breaking the record for the hottest temperature recorded for the city. For comparison the average July high temperature in Norilsk is a comparatively chilly 61F.

Norilsk isn’t an isolated example, but rather sits amid a sea of abnormally hot temperatures and smoky conditions in north-central Siberia. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, from July 20 through July 27, temperatures were about 30F above average across a large swath of this vast, sparsely populated region.

The warm weather has contributed to a spike in wildfires. As of July 29, wildfires continued to burn at least 22,200 acres in Siberia, according to news reports. Heavy smoke from them grounded commercial flights in Omsk, a city in southwestern Siberia, Russia Today reported.

The Siberian fires come on the heels of Russia’s worst wildfire season on record in 2012. Fires burned roughly 74 million acres that year, well above the 50 million acres burned on average for the period from 2000 to 2008. While it’s still early to tell if 2013 will challenge 2012 for a record-setting year, one thing to note about this season is the unusual location of the fires. Typically, large wildfires burn on the southern fringe of the taiga, a dense forest ecosystem also known as the boreal forest, but this year’s fires are burning in a more central portion of the taiga....

A view of Norilsk, shot by Qweasdqwe, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license 

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