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Wildfires Ravage Yemal-Nenets

NASA Earth Observatory
NASA Earth Observatory

In news from the Yemal-Nenets District, some 3,000 hectares are now engulfed by raging wildfires, according to the Emergencies Ministry.

Also according to the news, smore than 850 people have been involved in try to put out the fires, but only sixteen so far have been exstinguished. In the last 24 hours, some 280 tons of water have been dumped on the flames, by Be-200 amphibious aircraft and Mi-8 helicopters are involved in firefighting efforts. The ministry added: 

"There are currently 30 wildfires on the area of over 2,870 hectares in the district. Out of them, seven wildfires have been localized. Fire traveled over 1,200 hectares over the last 24 hours."

Since the beginning of this wildfire season, some 361 forest fires have been officially reported in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, in its 23,500 hectare area. Since mid-July 2016, satellites observed dense smoke over north-central Russia. According to scientists, many of these fires appeared in the tundra-taiga interface, where boreal forests give way to low-lying vegetation and permafrost. Bruce Forbes, a researcher at the University of Lapland told NASA: “It is not a sharp line. Also, there can be ancient peat deposits near the surface to provide fuel in some places.”

NASA scientists say these firest in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District are significant in what is being called a global fire anomaly map for 2016. North of the tree line, where lower temperatures prevail, peat moss thrives, and snow blankets the ground for much of the year. These areas are vitally imporant for their capability to store greenhouse gasses in the soils. However, the tundra here is very vulnerable now that global warming is taking more dramatic effect.

The moss becomes perfect kindling, so to speak, for helping ignite massive wildfires, and for the ensuing production of methane and carbon dioxied, both devastatig warming gases. Fires hinder the ecosystem’s ability to hold carbon. The blaze produces huge quantities of CO2 and methane (a potent greenhouse gas) into the air. Instead of holding carbon, the ground releases it, further warming the earth.