Wildfires are burning from the the Amazon to the Arctic — Here's why you should be worried

Satellites observed thick plumes of smoke rising from dozens of large wildfires in SiberiaNASA Earth Observatory
  • The Earth’s Arctic region and the Amazon rainforest are on fire all thanks to climate change.
  • The peripheries of the Northern Hemisphere are heating up twice as fast as the rest of the Earth while the Amazon has so many different wildfires brewing that the resulting smoke extends for 1.2 million square miles.
  • Wildfires in Alaska, Siberia, Russia and Greenland are releasing a record amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the Amazonia wildfires are burning up the ‘lungs of the planet’ — making a bad problem even worse.
If you think that climate change is making your summers hotter, be thankful that you don’t live in the Arctic or in the Amazon.

Amazonia — the entirety of the Amazon rainforest — has 10,000 separate wildfires that started burning this very week. The collective smoke from the wildfires created a layer of smoke that stretches for over 1.2 million square million darkening skies over the South American continent.

In the northern hemisphere, the entire region — stretching from Siberia all the way to Alaska — is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. It’s gotten so hot that it’s literally on fire.

It’s not that wildfires are uncommon in the Arctic region, in fact they happen every summer. But this time around, even the The World Meteorological Organisation ( WMO) called it ‘unprecedented’ noting that its monitoring service, CAMS, has tracked over 100 wildfires in the Arctic Circle.
Large wildfires continue to burn in Alaska seen from space on ThursdayCopernicus, WMO
In both cases, the burning infernos have gotten so out of hand that you can see even see the wildfires from space.

Fires burning over Brazil as seen from spaceNOAA

The lungs of the planet

The Amazon rainforest has been dubbed the ‘lungs of the planet’ since its innate vastness — 5.4 million square kilometers — produces 20% of the world’s oxygen.

And, right now, since its burning instead of breathing — it’s producing carbon dioxide and other harmful gases instead.


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Brazil’s government are literally letting people set fire to The Amazon rainforest to deforest land to set up cattle farming. The earths lung which produces more than 20% of the worlds oxygen, more than half of the worlds 10 million plants, animals and insects all for what?! MONEY!! When the Notre Dame was burning, the media covered every single moment of it, the billionaires pledged to save it. But why is it that when an actual natural disaster waiting to happen is in plain sight we choose to ignore it? In Iceland they just had a funeral for a glacier that is no more. We are well and truly trying our best to ruin the planet we live on. Perhaps the sooner we’re off this planet the better. #AmazonFire #amazonrainforest #brazil #planet #savetheplanet

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The record breaking wildfires come in the footsteps of The Guardian reporting that the Amazon shrunk by 1,345 square kilometers in the month of July — twice the area of a city like Tokyo.

The area of around three football fields was disappearing every minute according to data from Brazilian satellites.

Earth’s cushion against climate change on the brink of collapse


Aside endangering wildlife and their habitats, the fires released an exorbitant amount of carbon dioxide.

In June alone, fires in the Arctic released over 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the WMO — the same as Sweden’s emissions over a whole year.
Wildfire in the Qeqqata Kommunia, Greenland on July 14Pierre Markuse/Flickr
Mark Parrington, a senior scientist with Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring service, notes that since then, carbon dioxide released from fires in the Arctic has reached 100 megatons — breaking previous records.

It affects you even if you don’t live on the North Pole


The impact of these fires is crossing borders.

Russia, for instance, is the victim of the smoke plumes degrading the air quality in some of its cities according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Wildfires in Russia on July 21Pierre Markuse/Flickr
Permafrost, or peat, in the region stores a lot of the carbon dioxide that’s released on Earth. While the peat isn’t in the direct line of fire — no pun intended — it’s still left will less cover against direct sunlight. This increases the odds of it thawing out and releasing all of its stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.


Amazonia fires seen from space by NASA satellitesEarth Observatory/NASA

The situation in Brazil is as such that even though the country owns most of the Amazon rainforest, its President Jair Bolsonaro has stated that saving Amazonia is not on his list of priorities.

And, even though Brazil might not want to deal with the problem, the darkening skies and overwhelming smoke extends to Paraguay and Bolivia as well.

See also:

A devastating Arctic temperature rise that could submerge coastal cities and trigger species extinction is now locked in

Rapid melting sea-ice in the Arctic may hamper India’s monsoon pattern: Study