Warm temperatures, a decreased snowpack, and an apparent increase in lightning strikes are putting Alaska on track for a record-breaking fire season. 2 million acres have been destroyed by fires so far this year, which is around 10 times the total area burned in 2021.
According to a statement from the Alaska Fire Service of the Bureau of Land Management, “although this does not ensure a record fire season this year, it does demonstrate how dry conditions are across the state.” “With several more months to go in the season, it’s also a sign of how active firemen have been so far.”
The state of Alaska experienced its third-warmest and fourth-dryest May on record, which contributed to the rapid thawing of the snowpack and the rapid emergence of numerous wildfires. In the previous weeks, more than 300 wildfires have started, according to a statement from NOAA. “This year has been an extremely active fire season in the region,” the agency stated. Nearly 5,000 lightning strikes from thunderstorms that passed through south-central and southwestern Alaska in the early days of June are responsible for many of them.
In June, Alaska had a record amount of wildfires. These included the East Fork Fire, which has scorched more than 250,000 acres close to the Yukon Delta, and the Lime Complex Fire, which has scorched more than 600,000 acres in southwest Alaska. The National Weather Service advised anyone with respiratory issues to stay indoors and issued red flag warnings for much of Alaska’s interior.
Currently, the state is on course to burn more land than it did during the record-breaking 2004 fire season when more than 6 million acres were consumed by flames. With million-acre flames burning more than twice as frequently as they did prior to 1990, wildfires in Alaska have gotten bigger and more severe over time.
The Boreal north’s natural ecosystem includes wildfire, but the fires that are occurring now are different from those that were burning 150 years ago, according to Rick Thoman of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. More fuel, more lightning strikes, hotter temperatures, and lower humidity all contribute to fires that burn hotter and deeper into the earth, destroying everything in their path and leaving behind a lunar-like landscape of ash.
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