EnvironmentGlobal warmingNatural disasters

Zombie fires – weird phenomenon is becoming a norm

The majority of people are not even aware of the fact that fires can happen in pretty cold destinations of the world even during freezing winters. This is rather difficult to imagine, however, people have already faced this phenomenon in the Arctic area. Unfortunately, what seemed to be a strange rare natural event is now becoming more and more popular putting the forest of the northern areas of our planet under a real threat.

What are zombie fires?

In fact this strange phenomenon has not been researched enough to tell exactly what such fires are. In all likelihood, these are the remains of the fires which happened on the surface.

It turns out that the ground of the areas of the Arctic circle is highly rich in carbon. In many parts of the area, the organic layer of the ground is quite thick. Actually, in many cases the amount of carbon contained in the ground is higher than the carbon available on the surface.

Because of this nature of the Arctic ground, fires tend to go rather deep. In some situations, even when a fire is over on the surface, it is still smouldering under the frozen layers of the ground and snow. It might be difficult to imagine something like this knowing how low temperatures in such regions can go in the winter.

The threat of such fires which are also called overwintering fires is that they are coming to the surface in the spring causing new fires. The problem can be come rather serious since during the winter, people are simply unaware of smouldering under the ground.

As you can imagine, this is why researchers are calling such fires “zombie”. Even though they seem to be buried, they are alive waiting for a perfect moment to come out.

This phenomenon is particularly popular in Russia, Canada and Alaska.

The rare phenomenon is not thus rare anymore

The problem is that nowadays overwinter fires are becoming more an more widespread.

In fact, despite its cold climate, the Arctic Circle is rather prone to fires which happen here more and more often. As it has already been mentioned, unlike in the case of the forests located in warmer regions, the major material which is burning here is the organic substances based on carbon which are located in the ground.

This source of fire can lead to serious problems and now they are rising. For instance, according to the report of the previous year, the wildfires which happened in the Arctic Circle a year ago were really massive giving the Earth a record emission of carbon dioxide. Actually, its amount was equal to 244 megatones. At that time, severe smoke covered Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland.

Why is the number and intensity of zombie fires growing now?

The most possible reason for the rising number of zombie fires is the warming of the climate on the Arctic Circle. The researchers have noticed the connection between the rise of the temperature in this area and the increase in the number of overwinter fires.

First of all, high temperatures in the area allow the fire to stay in the layers of the ground for a longer time. Additionally, warmer springs and summers let the fire spread more easily. At the same time, the more fire is covering the area, the higher the possibility of its remains to go deep into the ground and come to the surface causing even more fires is.

Zombie fires are a real threat to the forests of the Arctic area and they are also a significant source of the emissions of carbon dioxide. For instance, 22 percent of burnt area of Alaska in 2010 was the result of overwinter fires.

What can be done to stop the spread of zombie fires?

As you can imagine, it is difficult to monitor the phenomenon without special equipment and techniques since people cannot distinguish the fire hidden deep under the ground and snow. At the same time, the best time to identify the area with smouldering fire under the ground is when the fire is still very small.

Currently, the options available to people is the observation of the area prone to such fires with the help of satellites and planes.

According to the scientists, it looks like zombie fires are going to become a typical natural even for our planet.

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