Major blazes affecting areas traditionally not on the fire-danger map are prompting questions for answers to this unprecedented phenomenon. A total of 11 wildfires are currently blazing in the Arctic circle, an article published by the World Economic Forum, citing a related story run by The Guardian, has pointed out.
Fires are raging in Russia, Norway and Finland, while Sweden, experiencing the most extensive Arctic fires, has been forced to evacuate four communities, according to The Guardian.
Two Italian water-bombing planes that answered Sweden’s call for help are scheduled to begin operating today. Sweden has requested even more planes and helicopters from the EU.
“This is definitely the worst year in recent times for forest fires. Whilst we get them every year, 2018 is shaping up to be excessive,” noted Mike Peacock, a university researcher and Uppsula resident.
This year’s fires in Sweden cover a much larger area than fires in past years. The blazes are a consequence of a heat wave that is bringing unusually hot, dry weather to much of Europe, prompting major fire outbreaks far beyond Europe’s Mediterranean firezone, EU officials are pointing out.
The European Forest Fire Information System has warned that fire conditions will persist in central and northern Europe over the next few weeks.
Scientists say the increase in northern fires is another sign of climate change.
“What we’re seeing with this global heatwave is that these areas of fire susceptibility are now broadening, with the moors in northwest England and now these Swedish fires a consequence of that,” professor of global change ecology at the Open University Vincent Gauci commented.
“Both these areas are typically mild and wet which allows forests and peatlands to develop quite large carbon stores,” he said. “When such carbon-dense ecosystems experience aridity and heat and there is a source of ignition – lightning or people – fires will happen.”
The European Arctic is not the only part of the far north seeing increased fire activity.
Two recent fires brought the total number of fires in Alaska’s Galena Zone have burned 44,000 acres to date.
This year’s fires come a year after Europe had its worst fire season in recorded history, though 2017’s most devastating fires were in the more typically fire-susceptible countries of Italy, Portugal and Spain, where they burned thousands of hectares of agricultural land and forests into November.
In Greece, devastating wildfires that broke out on Monday west and northeast of Athens and have so far led to over 70 deaths, have emerged as the latest fire disaster to hit Europe’s south.