Research Reveals Ancient Peat Bogs Burning and Unprecedented Emissions From 2020 Arctic Fires

Research Reveals Ancient Peat Bogs Burning and Unprecedented Emissions From 2020 Arctic Fires

Arctic fires have emitted 35% more carbon dioxide this fire season than in all of 2019.

Battling a forest fire in Boguchany District in 2019; over 1 million hectares of woodland were hit by wildfires in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Territory last year. (Photo: Donat Sorokin\TASS via Getty Images)

The latest data released by the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service shows Arctic wildfires this year have emitted 35% more carbon dioxide than they did in all of 2019.

“What we have been seeing in the Arctic this summer is a significant number of wildfires in the Siberian Arctic that have been burning since about the second week of June with high intensity and producing large amounts of smoke pollution covering much of the region,” Mark Parrington, senior scientist at Copernicus, told The Independent in early August.

“In some respects [the data] has been similar to 2019 in terms of the dry and warm conditions in the Siberian Arctic,” Parrington told The Guardian Monday. “This year, the difference was a large cluster of fires that burned through July for many days leading to higher estimated emissions.”

The Arctic Is on Fire, and It Might Be Creating a Vicious Climate 'Feedback Loop'
SMOKE OVER A SITE OF FOREST FIRE IN RYAZAN REGION, RUSSIA, IN LATE JUNE. IMAGE: GETTY/ALEXANDER RYUMIN/TASS.

Data shows 245 metric tons of CO2 have been released from Arctic wildfires this year, more than the annual CO2 output of Sweden, Norway, and Finland combined, The Independent reported.

According to an analysis by Dr. Thomas Smith, assistant professor of environmental geography at the London School of Economics, approximately half of fires in the Arctic Circle were burning on “peat soils,” which contain carbon that has accumulated over thousands of years, The Guardian reported.

“Peat fires burn ‘old’ carbon,” Smith told VICE in July, meaning that the carbon has taken thousands of years to accumulate. “So in a few weeks, a fire can burn through hundreds of years worth of carbon sequestration.”