The Raging Wildfires in the Arctic are an Unprecedented Catastrophe

Scalding summer days, cracked dry soil: a recipe for a hot mess in the Arctic. June fires across the polar region have released record-shattering amounts of carbon emissions so far this year, only second to... last year.

Wildfires in the Arctic Circle have released 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in June alone—The New York Times reports—a staggering amount that rivals the total domestic annual output of some industrialized countries. 

The fires closely follow the ongoing trend of rising global temperatures, which is thrown into especially extreme relief in the Arctic. Unusually chilly places like the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk (known historically as a fur depot and reindeer-raising area), hit record temperatures of 38 degrees Celcius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) this June.

While wildfires, to some degree, are a natural part of the ecology of the Arctic, experts say the scale and intensity in the past few years have been without precedent. In addition to fueling global warming, the fires also have the feedback effect of thawing out previously frozen permafrost, which in turn releases the methane trapped in the soil. 

The smoke from the Siberian fires has also been spreading down across the Pacific, reaching as far as the Pacific Northwest. 

While the memories of widespread fires in Brazil, Australia, and Indonesia still smolder in our collective memory, the ones in the Arctic deserve just as much attention and concern.

Read more on The New York Times.