Northern Hemisphere On Fire: Large Smoke Clouds Still Blanketing World’s Roof

After days and, in some cases, weeks of ongoing burning, immense fires still raged over the Northwest Territory, the US Northwest and Russia today as massive clouds of smoke continued to spread over the Northern Hemisphere.

In Washington, the state’s largest fire on record — The Carlton Complex Fire — was declared a federal disaster area by President Obama today as more than 2,000 firefighters continued to struggle to get the blaze under control. As of this afternoon, the 400 square mile fire was just 16% contained, though a bout of rain and moisture were aiding firefighters in their efforts.

About the fires, Obama noted:

A lot of it has to do with drought, a lot of it has to do with changing precipitation patterns, and a lot of that has to do with climate change.

More than 200 homes have been consumed by the fire and the loss of one life is attributed to it. With many residences still at risk, the situation remains very dangerous. The Carlton blaze was just one of scores of fires igniting over the US Northwest this week, scorching nearly a million acres and spurring the call-up of nearly 10,000 firefighting personnel.

Major Northwest Territory Fires Still Ongoing

Meanwhile, in Canada, fires still raged over the Northwest Territory, casting 1,000 mile streams of smoke into an atmosphere already heavily laden from the ongoing burning. It is a kind of smoke soup hanging in the air that has become all too common for this Arctic region:

NWT fires July 23

(1,000 + mile stream of smoke issuing from very large fires still raging over the Northwest Territory in Canada on July 23, 2014. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Provinces remained at a level 4 alert status (out of a range of 1-5) indicating a high-to-extreme risk of continued fires. In total, 904,000 hectares (2,334,000 acres) have burned in the Northwest Territory so far this year compared to the typical ten-year average at 142,000 hectares. Throughout Canada, a total of 2,914 fires have been reported with 1,404,000 hectares burned. Over 800 fire fighters, more than 50 helicopters, and 5 fixed wing aircraft were involved in the ongoing response to these extraordinary blazes.

Epic Russian Fires The Worst of the Lot

In Russia, states of emergency remained in place along with continued travel restrictions over broad sections of Yakutia as a very large swath of Siberian tundra continued to belch immense billows of smoke. Numerous fires of over 400 square miles in size are plainly visible in the satellite shot. Massive streams of smoke continue to issue from these blazes blanketing more than 2,000 miles of sky.

Siberian Fires July 23

(Very large fires burning in Yakutia on July 23, 2014. For reference, bottom edge of frame is 2,000 miles. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Yakutia is a region of Russia sitting atop a massive pile of thawing permafrost, perhaps the most carbon-rich zone in all of the Arctic Northern Hemisphere. The fires there seem to burn both woodlands and ground, lingering for many weeks and are only extinguished by the most powerful of downpours. Wildfires in these shots appear to rival the massive blazes ripping through a nearby region during Russia’s worst fire season — 2012. The massive plumes of very dense smoke and explosive blazes — reminiscent of a record-setting year.

Very Intense fires burning in Yakutia

(Close up of very intense fires beneath dense pallor of smoke in Yakutia. For reference, bottom edge of frame is 120 miles. Together, these fires easily cover an area rivaling that of a moderate-sized state. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Warming for this region of the world is among the fastest for the globe, proceeding at a pace of 0.5 C per decade or more than double the average. Due to its very large carbon store – both in boreal forest stock as well as thawing tundra — Yakutia remains one of the locations on watch for severe CO2 and methane releases as an amplifying feedback due to human-caused climate change. Inefficient burning during the current blazes appears to have unlocked some of the methane stored in soils there, lacing cloud tops with CH4 readings of 200-300 ppb higher than the global average.

Northern Hemisphere ‘On Fire,’ Wind Blows Smoke Away From Sea Ice, For Now

University of Maryland physicist Dr. Raymond Hoffman seemed stunned by the scope of the fires burning over the roof of the world this week saying: “The Northern Hemisphere is on fire,” in a blog post on Sunday. Dr. Hoffman described the scene as a “hazy, smokey mess” and seemed taken aback by the sheer scale of the area affected remarking that it is rare to see so much smoke painting the northern skies. The kind of smoke stew that we’ve seen all too much of in recent years.

Fortunately, winds out of the north in both Canada and Russia blew the smoke plumes southward over the past couple of days, sparing both sea ice and ice sheets a rain of melt-inducing black carbon. Over the next few days, winds are forecast to return to a south-originating direction, putting the ice once again in the firing line.



National Interagency Fire Center

Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center

The Northern Hemisphere is on Fire

State of Emergency in Siberia’s Largest Permafrost Region Due to Wildfires

Obama Declares Washington Wildfire Emergency




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  1. Colorado Bob

     /  July 24, 2014

    ‘First ever’ heat warning issued for Sweden

    “We began to issue warnings last year, but then temperatures never reached up to these levels,” said Lovisa Andersson at Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI”>SMHI).

    “For a Class 1 warning it is required that the maximum daytime temperatures go up at 30C or more, three days in a row,” she explained.

    A class 1 warning means that weather conditions in carries certain risks to the public and disruption for some societal functions.

    The heat warning applies to the northern areas of the country, in Västernorrland, Västerbotten and Norrbotten. All these areas have been experiencing temperatures well above that experienced in other areas of the country for the past week.

  2. Colorado Bob

     /  July 24, 2014

    Yellowknife NWT, 7/23/2014 Current weather conditions updated 52 min 4 sec ago

    Mostly Cloudy
    Mostly Cloudy
    81 °F
    Feels Like 80 °F
    Wind from South
    Tomorrow is forecast to be COOLER than today.

    High 81 | Low 58 °F
    0% Chance of Precip.
    High 75 | Low 57 °F
    Precip. 0 in

    • 21 C forecast high for Alert on the Arctic Ocean this Friday!

    • 81F for Yellowknife is out of the historical norm, especially as it sits on Great Slave Lake and gets a tempering effect from it. If you look at the place on google earth, you’ll notice that it has a lot of exposure to the lake.

  3. Colorado Bob

     /  July 24, 2014

    Firefighters pulled off Carlton Complex wildfire for flash floods

    Firefighters were pulled off the fire line at the Carlton Complex wildfires Wednesday due to flash flooding.
    Radar showed heavy rain associated with a thunderstorm in Chelan County. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning through Wednesday evening.

  4. Colorado Bob

     /  July 24, 2014

    State or emergency in Siberia’s largest permafrost region – due to wildfires

    More than one thousand people were evacuated from their homes in the Sakha Republic – also known as Yakutia – which is the largest region of the Russian Federation, while states of emergency are also in effect in other major regions such as Kransnoyarsk and Irkutsk.

    Famed for its cold and permafrost, Sakha is now under siege from wildfires.

    Vyacheslav Popov, head of the republic’s Forestry Department, said: ‘The area of wildfires doubled. There are 37 active wildfires in the republic right now covering the territory of 76,000 hectares. There is a threat to eight settlements in five areas of Yakutia”

  5. This in Bill McGuire’s book Waking the Giant 2010 – it’s happening a lot faster than we thought….PERMAFROST MELT – Monitoring by Russian scientist suggests that the permafrost shell is already starting to break up in places, releasing millions of tonnes of methane into the atmosphere of the Arctic. This could, however, be just the tip of the iceberg, with up to 1.4 trillion tonnes of gas hydrate and methane gas suspected of being trapped beneath the submarine permafrost in the region. Especially worrying is the observation that up to 10 percent of this area is now being punctured by so-called taliks areas of thawed permafrost that provide avenues for the ready escape of methane and opportunities for warmth to penetrate deep into the frozen hydrate beneath. This is a recipe for a climate catastrophe. Natalia Shakhova of the University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Centre, and he co-workers, are concerned that up to 50 billion tonnes of methane could be released abruptly and without warning from the Arctic sea bed, pushing up the methane concentration of the atmosphere 12-fold virtually overnight and driving cataclysmic warming. This, in turn, would likely lead to further methane release as permafrost on land thawed rapidly to release its store, and as wetlands – already big methane producers – spewed out even more. DIANA BROADHEAD.

    • I wonder what indicators there are for changes in the stability of hydrates, as perhaps precursors. Perhaps more or less pingos. Maybe shorter lived pingos (break down quicker) or more frost heaves, or more extreme. Perhaps earlier heaves or a longer season for heaves (road repairs). Maybe local biomass die offs. There could be some anecdotal observations that could be used as initial indicators.

      Does anyone know, if we have a discharge as Diana has referenced (50b tonnes), what the suspected behavior would be? Would it cause a local effect, then dilute into the atmosphere increasing the affected area while reducing the delta it causes? It is likely a theory or 2 on the effect as it is probably not an observed event yet, However there could be some good theories from some smart folks that could provide some guidance on responses to keep an eye out for.

      • The local effect could be quite extreme. The global effect of a 50 gt release would add about +0.5 to +1 C to world temps over a short term. That’s a rather big hit for just one event.

      • thanks Robert, 50 gt causing +0.5 to +1C would be catastrophic. And as Diana stated the feedback would have a strong chance to kick in.

        • When you consider that you need only about another 0.5 C to lock in permafrost and another 1 C over the GIS to lock in Greenland melt, it’s a pretty big deal.

          50 gt would certainly be catastrophic, regardless of source.

  6. Burgundy

     /  July 24, 2014

    I tend to think of things systemically, eg. Nature is a system, so is Technological Civilisation. We humans control neither, but can and do alter their paths, but never their direction. We’re simply a catalyst in the whole scheme of things.

    So it seems to me that Nature/Gaia is busy preparing the land for cultivation in a rather quick slash and burn manner in response to rapid warming of those areas. Clearing the boreal and hemiboreal forests for replacement with god knows what. The rapidity of warming probably rules out the natural creep of southern vegetation moving North and may simply end up as a chaotic biological free-for-all of overlapping ecosystems stampeding northwards. Preceded by raging forest fires and evisceration of existing ecosystems to clear the way.

    • The age of fires will be a long one if we start cracking open the old carbon stores. It appears we’re doing that now.

    • Mark from New England

       /  July 24, 2014


      Well put when you said: “The rapidity of warming probably rules out the natural creep of southern vegetation moving North and may simply end up as a chaotic biological free-for-all of overlapping ecosystems stampeding northwards.” Yes, and the weedy invasive species will do best of all. In the northern boreal forest some form of scrub-shrub habitat consisting of willows and poplars etc. may eventually replace the spruce-fir.

      It pains me when I venture out to look at birds and wildlife that future generations will likely not have all this incredible diversity to enjoy and commune with. Bird watchers of the future may have to be content with Crows, English sparrows, Starlings and … Chickens.

  7. Colorado Bob

     /  July 24, 2014

    06:05 UTC
    Fires and smoke in eastern Russia

    • Do they have evidence yet on the cause of the first one anyone? I thought they were taking samples to check for methane.

      Will Heartland attribute these to giant gophers? I can see it now, the Heartland bit stating that CO2 causes bigger gophers, thus we’ll have larger animals, larger animals means bigger cows, bigger cows means larger burgers, therefore this is good!

    • Have got to be kidding…

      • Mark from New England

         /  July 24, 2014

        Perhaps Colorado Bob will be proven correct when the arctic looks like a teenager breaking out in zits all over the place. I think that’s how he put it a few posts ago.

  8. Tying what Diana & Todaysguestis posts together, that paints an unfortunate picture.

    A lot of people may perceive permafrost as a stable frozen block of frozen sludge in the Arctic. Permafrost behaves in differing manners in different locales. Yes, it is supposed to be quite stable in it’s state in the far north, but as one travels towards the south (towards the Equator) it exhibits a different annual cycle. The surface is supposed to receive a bit of melt, and softening, which refreeezes. As you travel further south, the depth of melt increases as does the amount of softening. As you leave the freeze dominant regions, one sees bogs (same crud, just melted).

    The permafrost also exhibits heaves as it softens during the brief summer and refreezes (the classic drunken roads with washboard bumps).

    There is a balance (within our human time scales) such that the annual behavior is used as an input into engineering endeavors (roads, buildings, pipelines). This may be in the form of where to build, how much crush (gravel) to put in place to stabilize the underside (thermal blanket). These can get compromised when the behavior changes.

    Additionally, the moisture content may reduce with a longer thaw period (causing fire fuel). As the changes move north the physical structure and gassing stability of the permafrost changes (reduces). Bogs will move north, seasonal melt permafrost will move north, increased frost heaves further north, more pingos. Very tough to engineer around.

    • Permafrost is definitely no longer stable. You could imagine it as the ghost of the ice sheets of the last ice age, haunting the ground. Now, it’s starting to melt away and the surface will surely feel the effects.

  9. Colorado Bob

     /  July 24, 2014

    Scientists To Resume Digging Wyoming Cave After 30 Years

    The oldest fossils in the cave could be more than 100,000 years old

    The Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming is unlike any other cave. It’s an incredible treasure trove of the late Pleistocene period fossils. The 85-feet deep cavern has bones of tens of thousands of animals forming a 30-feet mound at the bottom. Entrance of the cave is just 12 x 15 feet, and it’s so well hidden that animals (even humans) can’t notice it until they have almost fallen in.


  10. Colorado Bob

     /  July 24, 2014

    03:20 UTC
    Smoke from Russian fires

  11. Brian

     /  July 24, 2014

    Forest fire situation here in BC has been raging out of control for weeks. Cooler weather and rain over the last couple of days has helped firefighters get some control but a return to hotter and drier conditions is forcast for the weekend and into next week.

    This years fire season has been one of the worst and it is not over yet. All that dead pine was a disaster waiting to happen.

    • Huge store just waiting for ignition. Add in the high amplitude wave in the Jet over your area and it’s quite a bad mix.

      From the satellite things still look pretty rough. So you expect it to significantly worsen over the coming days?

  12. Colorado Bob

     /  July 24, 2014

    03:30 UTC

    New fires marching to the coast of Siberia This is the East side of the burn area.

  13. Robert With so much erupting (no pun intended) i’m posting this to let people know that some scary things make it thru the MSM veil of POSITISVIC IGNORANANCE see BBC Channel 4 : OUR PLANET FROM THE AIR;HOME. (24.00-01.30 24/7/14) This perspective brings home to all IMO the POINGIANT, PERVASIVE and PREVENTABLE actions that are destroying humanity, species @ eco systems all over our ONE world. Please Robert and all DON’T GIVE IN

  14. Dash it all TYPO “IGNORANCE” above

  15. POSITAVISTIC re above


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