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Technology Wildfires in Siberia have burned down an area larger than Greece

22:41  21 july  2020
22:41  21 july  2020 Source:   cbsnews.com

Forest fires on the Arctic Circle: the Arctic is on fire again

 Forest fires on the Arctic Circle: the Arctic is on fire again The tundra in Siberia is burning for the second summer in a row. The forest fires could again expand into a huge wildfire. © Donat Sorokin / imago images / ITAR-TASS Forest fires in the northernmost regions of the world are not uncommon - but as often as in previous years, the Arctic rarely caught fire. As soon as the Arctic summer is in sight, according to researchers, is probably already blazing forest and wildfires again.

Wildfires in Russia have so far burned down an area larger than the size of Greece, according to Greenpeace Russia. On Monday, the environmental organization criticized government officials for their inaction in the region amid record heat waves.

a lot of smoke around it: Climate Emergency in Siberia 2020 © Julia Petrenko / Greenpeace Russia Climate Emergency in Siberia 2020

Using satellite data, Greenpeace Russia reported an estimated 19 million hectares, about 47 million acres, of forests, steppes and fields have burned across Siberia since January. About 10 million hectares of these territories suffered forest fires.

Siberian heatwave 'made 600 times more likely by climate change'

  Siberian heatwave 'made 600 times more likely by climate change' The prolonged heatwave in Siberia from January to June, which pushed overall temperatures 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than normal, would have been "almost impossible" if not for human-caused climate change, a new study has found. © Kirill Kukhmar/TASS/Getty Images A man looks at a fire engine near a dacha community in Moshkovo District, Novosibirsk Region, south Siberia, during a fire. The heat in the vast Russian region triggered widespread wildfires in June.

The fires have become an annual occurrence, but record-breaking heat last month has intensified the damage. Greenpeace Russia said authorities have not done enough to improve conditions.

"It's another year that Russian authorities have failed to stop these fires risking local communities and contributing to climate change," the organization said Monday.

a view of a city with smoke coming out of it: The Greenpeace Russia team has documented forest fires in the Krasnoyarsk region. / Credit: Julia Petrenko / Greenpeace © Provided by CBS News The Greenpeace Russia team has documented forest fires in the Krasnoyarsk region. / Credit: Julia Petrenko / Greenpeace

While most of the fires occur in remote areas, Greenpeace said harmful smoke has spread to larger cities, as well as many small towns and villages. This smoke is negatively affecting air quality in the region, which could exacerbate the symptoms of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.

Arctic heat wave "essentially impossible" without climate change

  Arctic heat wave A town in Siberia recently hit a record 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and scientists say the role of climate change is "truly staggering."The extreme and unusual warmth in this region alarmed scientists worldwide, prompting a group of 14 scientists from six countries to collaborate in a study to figure how something this out-of-bounds could occur. On Wednesday, the researchers released their findings in a comprehensive climate attribution study, declaring, "This large-scale prolonged event would have been essentially impossible without climate change.

"Russia's sprawling Siberia region became a climate hotspot, heating up much faster than the rest of the planet. This summer has already brought extreme heat waves, oil spills caused by thawing permafrost, and raging forest fires – what next before we finally act on climate?" said Greenpeace Russia Wildfire Unit Head Grigory Kuksin. "Russian authorities must work fast to stop cities being filled with toxic smoke haze. It's to stop economic cutbacks on forest protection and support national forestry to protect our health and our climate."

Activists said that some of the forest fires are the result of lightning, but many were started by campfires on river banks. Another cause is purposeful large-scale burnings that get out of hand.

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According to the country's Federal Forestry Agency, an emergency team was sent in to battle the fires in eight territories on Tuesday. Fire safety teams have also been introduced in 55 other regions in an attempt to contain the fires.

The agency said that 797 forest fires were extinguished in 43 regions of Russia just in the last week, covering more than 63,000 hectares, about 156,000 acres. It confirmed that humans and storms are the two main causes of the fires.

a close up of smoke: The Greenpeace Russia team has documented forest fires in the Krasnoyarsk region. / Credit: Julia Petrenko / Greenpeace © Provided by CBS News The Greenpeace Russia team has documented forest fires in the Krasnoyarsk region. / Credit: Julia Petrenko / Greenpeace

"Having been an atmospheric scientist for decades, not much surprises me. But the unprecedented Siberian heatwave which led to these fires, and more broadly the blazing pace of change in the Arctic, is shocking," said CBS News meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli. "While it may seem remote to most people, it is one of the most alarming canaries in a coal mine, alerting us that humans are now a powerful force of nature. The extreme weather and ecological impacts in Siberia this year vividly illustrate we have a very limited time to act to avoid the worst impacts of human-caused climate change."

In June, the small Siberian town of Verkhoyansk soared to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking an all-time record for the Arctic and alarming meteorologists worldwide. Verkhoyansk is typically one of the coldest spots on Earth.

Last week, researchers revealed that such a large-scale, prolonged heat wave would have been "essentially impossible" without human-caused climate change.

"We are now seeing events far outside of what our societies are adapted to," said study co-author Dr. Friederike Otto. "Climate change is here now, it is not only a problem for someone else, somewhere else, but heat waves are threatening lives and livelihoods everywhere."

Greece reopens islands to flights in bid to save tourism season .
Greece on Wednesday reopened flights to its flagship island destinations as it raced to salvage a portion of the annual tourism season that is vital to its economy. Over 100 flights are expected at 14 regional airports that include the popular islands of Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete, airport manager Fraport said. All airports in the country are now receiving international flights and the ports of Patras and Igoumenista will again receive ferries from Italy.Travellers are given scannable bar codes after they fill out a questionnaire with personal details such as their country of origin and the countries they have travelled through in the last 15 days.

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