In July, Russian officials announced that 300 fires were burning in the northern part of the country.
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On top of unusually high temperatures and dry soil, the new fires have environmental scientists deeply concerned.
There are five reasons why scientists are worried about this new trend.
1. Carbon Emissions: In June, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service measured 50 megatons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by the fires alone.
That’s the amount released annually by the entire country of Sweden.
2. Losing Permafrost: Permafrost is supposed to stay frozen year round. Entire cities are built on permafrost in the Arctic Circle. Now, that permafrost is melting.
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Norway’s “doomsday” seed bank that protects seeds important for agricultural and scientific purposes is in danger of collapse because of thawing soil.
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3. Danger to Wildlife: Animals like arctic hares, moose, and martens are displaced by fires.
The fires — and warming in general — also harm local caribou populations, which in turn affect the humans who raise them.
4. Warming from Extreme Logging: Clear-cutting forests removes carbon-storing trees, which allows carbon to remain in the atmosphere longer — and contribute to warming.
Warmer and drier conditions create environments ripe for fires.
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5. Unknown Future: Temperatures in Siberia soared to 100 degrees in June. This is unprecedented, and scientists aren’t sure what’s going to happen in the region next.
Photo by Yevgeny Sofroneyev\TASS via Getty Images
One thing is for certain: The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the world, and the consequences could be dire.
Check out more climate change stories here.