Boreal burning

Canada's Northwest Territories are on fire. The region is experiencing its hottest, driest summer in 50 years, and wildfire activity is more than six times the 25-year average.

If increased global warming spurs ever-greater fires in the taiga of Alaska, Canada and Russia, as some scientists predict, it could create a feedback loop, in which more boreal fires lead to more warming, and more warming to more fire.

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This is dreadful news, indeed! I lived near Kenai, Alaska from 1959-1961 at Wildwood Army Station. I have walked on tundra and grew vegetables in ground that was recovered from that natural process. It is spongy when wet, and like coal when dry. An Athabascan family helped me prepare my soil for planting by taking me to the Eagle River where it enters Cook's Inlet, and we gathered seaweed to spread over my ground. We also dug deep rows and buried fish entrails. It was a lot of hard work. but my first cabbage weighed more than 20 pounds. The Athabascans grew 40 pound cabbages. The tundra is a fire waiting to happen.   

"Over the past 50 years, Alaska has warmed at more than twice the rate of the rest of the United States’ average. Its annual average temperature has increased 3.4°F, while winters have warmed even more, by 6.3°F.2As a result, climate change impacts are much more pronounced than in other regions of the United States. The higher temperatures are already contributing to earlier spring snowmelt, reduced sea ice, widespread glacier retreat, and permafrost warming.3,2 These observed changes are consistent with climate model projections of greater warming over Alaska, especially in winter, as compared to the rest of the country."

"Climate plays a key role in determining the extent and severity of insect outbreaks and wildfires.12,13 During the 1990s, for example, south-central Alaska experienced the largest outbreak of spruce beetles in the world.14,12 This outbreak occurred because rising temperatures allowed the spruce beetle to survive over the winter and to complete its life cycle in just one year instead of the normal two years. Healthy trees ordinarily defend themselves by pushing back against burrowing beetles with their pitch. From 1989 to 1997, however, the region experienced an extended drought, leaving the trees too stressed to fight off the infestation."

Here is a map of the Kenai Peninsula.


A  succinct US gov video about increasing wildfires in the US and Canada and Climate Change.




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