Wildfire in the coldest city in the world, smoke spreads to the US

Yakutsk, the capital of the Republic of Yakutia in Russian Siberia, is the coldest city in the world. In a place where just keeping their noses open during the winter months can be painfully numbing from the cold, people are more accustomed to cold precautions than wildfire.

According to CNN, but now, this city is engulfed in wildfire smoke after experiencing weeks of heat. Wildfires were so intense and winds were so strong that the smoke even reached as far as Alaska.

Forest fire in Yakutia seen from above. Photo: AP
Forest fire in Yakutia seen from above. Photo: AP

On July 20, smoke from a dense forest fire in Yakutia made the pilot of the reconnaissance plane Svyatoslav Kolesov unable to work. You can't fly a plane in such poor visibility. Kolesov is an experienced pilot in the Yakutia region. This area in Siberia is prone to forest fires as many places are covered with forest. However, this year's wildfire is very different.

"New fires have appeared in the north of Yakutia, in places where there were no wildfires last year and there were no fires before," said Kolesov.

Kolesov is witnessing with his own eyes what scientists have warned for years. Wildfires are getting bigger, more severe, and occurring in places where wildfires have never been seen before.

“The bushfire season is getting longer, the fires are bigger and more severe than ever,” said Thomas Smith, assistant professor of environmental geography at the London School of Economics.

Video of forest fires in Siberia (Source: Guardian):


Many factors, such as poor land management, contribute to wildfires, but climate change makes wildfires more frequent and more severe. Much of Europe, the western United States, southwestern Canada and parts of South America experienced hotter-than-average dry weather in June, making the forest a fire.

Forest fires in Yakutia have consumed more than 6.5 million acres since the beginning of this year, the equivalent of 5 million football fields.

Mr. Mark Parrington, senior scientist at the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Agency, said that Yakutia has been experiencing continuous high-intensity fires since the last days of June until now. He said the bushfire season usually lasts until mid-August, so the fires in Yakutia are likely to continue.

According to Mr. Smith, although parts of Siberia and Canada have always experienced forest fires, the worry is that the fires are much more frequent than before. He said: “In the past, there was a forest fire every 100-150 years at a location, which means that the forest completely regenerates, matures, and then fires.

An employee of the Yakutlesresurs forest protection agency in Yakutia rests after digging a trench to prevent a fire. Photo AP
An employee of the Yakutlesresurs forest protection agency in Yakutia rests after digging a trench to prevent a fire. Photo AP

In parts of eastern Siberia, wildfires occur every 10-30 years. In some places, this means that the forest will not be able to mature and the forest will be ecologically changed to a shrubland or marsh grassland.

Heat and drought also make new areas vulnerable to fires. In the Siberian Arctic region, the tundra ecology north of the forest is of greatest concern. This is a place that is too wet and icy to normally burn. But in the past two years, there have been many fires in this ecosystem, showing that things are changing here.

This also has serious long-term effects on the climate. Ashes from fires can also promote global warming by blackening ice surfaces, reducing their ability to reflect solar radiation, making it easier for ice to melt.

Areas affected by wildfires also have peatlands, which contain a lot of carbon. “If these regions burn, carbon will be released,” Mr. Parrington said. Changes in the carbon storage system over thousands of years will have a heavy impact.”

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