Early Season Russia-Siberia Wildfire Outbreak Expands Due to Heat

An early Siberian and Asian wildfire outbreak that became apparent last week has continued to flare just south of the swiftly retreating freeze line. And while wildfires near Lake Baikal and further south and east toward the Russia-China border continue to flicker, a considerable outbreak has now flared up in Western Russian and Siberia along a zone straddling the Urals and just south of the Yamal Peninsula.

(Wildfires and hotspots run west to east across Russia and Siberia in this May 3 NASA satellite shot. Note the storm system near Lake Baikal which has recently suppressed early season wildfire activity there. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

A trough dipping through Central Russia and Siberia has brought rain and cooler conditions — which has suppressed some of the previously extensive wildfire activity near and to the north of Lake Baikal. But temperatures in the range of 5-15 C above average along both the Russia-China border and in Western Russia have combined with warm, southerly winds to spur wildfire activity throughout these regions. In these zones, temperatures have been flaring into the 60s, 70s, and even lower 80s F (16-27 C) through sections. And such abnormal heat has helped to generate a high prevalence of newly-flaring early May wildfires.

Though wildfires in the east along the Russia-China border are still small and lack intensity, the region near the Urals is showing some significant flare-ups. Just west of the Urals near 56 north latitude burn scars as large as ten miles long by five miles wide appeared in the satellite imagery as fires ripped through the area on April 29 through May 3. These fires blanketed the region with 100 to 200 mile long smoke plumes even as the blazes steadily march northward.

(Wildfire flare up near 56 N just west of the Urals. For reference, north is left side of frame, south right side. Bottom edge of frame is approximately 80 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

In the east and near Lake Baikal permafrost often extends as far south as the Russia-China border. So many of the fires in this region are already burning in or near permafrost zones. In the west, permafrost is removed further north — becoming more common beyond the 60 degree north latitude line. Hotspots in the west are now approaching this zone, flaring as far north as the 59th parallel, but have yet to fully cross into it.

Over the coming days and weeks, wildfires in the permafrost zone will tend to become more extensive as spring advances. Such burning, during recent years, is now much more common than in the past. The increase is due to a considerable and rapid warming near the polar region that has averaged 2 times the larger global warming rate (about 0.15 to 0.2 C per decade for the world and 0.3 to 0.4 C per decade for the Arctic).

(Anomalous warmth is spurring wildfire flare-ups in both eastern and western Siberia and Russia today. Over the coming weak, abnormally warm temperatures are again predicted to flare again over the Lake Baikal region — which will likely reinvigorate the wildfires that have already begun burning there. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

This human-forced warming due to fossil fuel burning is producing considerable permafrost thaw and creating new fuels for fires in a previously-frozen region. In addition, the added heat has generated more thunderstorms — producing more lightning strikes and other ignition sources. As a result of this warming, the added fuels, and a multiplication of fire ignition sources, Siberian wildfire season now ranges from April through September and often produces fires of a terrible magnitude.



Climate Reanalyzer

Hauntingly Freakish Siberian Wildfires Now Flicker to Life in April

Hat tip to MlParrish

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  1. climatehawk1

     /  May 3, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

  2. Cate

     /  May 3, 2017

    Dr Rahmstorf is not letting the NYT off the hook. On FB today, he writes:

    “Oh dear. The New York Times (Liz Spayd this time) is again playing the “you just can’t stand reading differing opinions on climate” card. They are simply not getting it. They’re not getting the irony of Stephens (of all people) calling for a “reasoned conversation” about climate. We climate scientists have been having this reasoned conversation for over fifty years now. Stephens would have had plenty of time to participate with reasoned, veryfiable arguments – but he has just made vague general accusations, called climate studies “flimsy” without specific evidence and repeated talking points from the fossil anti-climate-policy lobby without bothering to check whether they are true. Apparently these are qualifications to get the highly coveted position of NYT columnist. I am very sad I had to, but I was clearly right to cancel my subscription, Liz Spayd.”

    • Shared on Facebook. I encourage everyone to do the same.

      • Cate

         /  May 3, 2017


        Doesn’t the NYT get that this ill-judged little spat calls into question the integrity of their news reporting and smears their entire journalistic staff?

        Or are they perhaps that desperate to sell papers, that they’ll try some tabloid medicine? I wouldn’t put such a stunt past that sly old weasel Murdoch.

        • It’s pretty weird. You have some sections of the paper basically debunking the editorial page. The beast with two heads.

        • Marvin Miller

           /  May 3, 2017

          I don’t see anything but unvarnished climate denial from anything controlled by Rupert Murdock. The NYT should just adopt the “fair and balanced ” tagline of Fox News, start featuring soft porn on page 3 and quit pretending it has legitimate ownership.

        • Welcome, Marvin.

        • Uncle B

           /  May 4, 2017

          It’s definitely strange. It feels like we’re living in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Is someone twisting their(NYT) arm behind the scenes? It’s like watching Jeffrey Lord on CNN. You’re left wondering, “Why do they keep putting this guy on, when he is so clearly a shill for the Trump administration?”

      • Ok I sent to fb friends.I put in a friend request to Stefan R

  3. Carbon Brief found a UK documentary from 1981. The really sad part is that we knew so much and have done so little in 37 years.
    “But the most remarkable section of the documentary is, perhaps, its conclusion. The narration is both poignant and prescient:”
    “Uncertainty will permeate energy policy, if only because such a policy needs to be introduced before the irrefutable evidence that it is needed. They’ll be difficulties, too. The call for restraint in a society built on the exploitation of energy may meet irresistible forces. There is, for example, the vested interests that many of the world’s great corporations have in fossil fuels and the power they could wield on their behalf. International agreement will be needed to control the use of fossil fuels.”

    …..“The power they could wield”…..

    • Doug

       /  May 4, 2017

      That was the same year-1981, that I first became aware of climate change in a science class in college. I still remember the look in the professor’s eyes and his demeanor, when he told us we would see the effects of global warming in our lifetimes.

      • Who was the professor, Doug? Just curious b/c there are a few who have provided some pretty shocking interviews recently.

        • Doug

           /  May 5, 2017

          Hi Robert, The professors name was Dr. Halvorsen (I don’t remember his first name). He taught at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I tried to do a search on him recently and couldn’t find anything. I had a good friend in the class, someone I am still in contact with, who now is a climate change denier…Unbelievable. He was warned 36 years ago, but turned into a right-wing radio listener.

  4. coloradobob

     /  May 4, 2017

    How mountaintop mining affects life and landscape in West Virginia

    Deep layers of underground coal are all but gone in West Virginia after 200 years of relentless mining, leaving thinner seams of coal on top of the state’s beautiful mountains. But surface mining carries a huge cost: nothing less than mountains themselves. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports on how the Appalachian landscape is being fundamentally and irrevocably changed.

    To get to a coal seam 1 meter thick, they strip off 99 meters of rock .

  5. coloradobob

     /  May 4, 2017

    Nature knows no borders. Border security can take a heavy toll on endangered wildlife

    One of President Trump’s key promises rests on building a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. But how would a continuous barrier stretching from California to Texas affect the wildlife that live there? At least 50 species near the border are already endangered and scientists worry a wall will only accelerate extinction for some. William Brangham reports from the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.

    • Cate

       /  May 4, 2017

      Bob, I have a suspicion that neither Trump nor anyone in his administration nor any of his avid supporters give a sweet flying **** about wildlife, beyond what they can kill and hang trophy-style on their walls.

  6. Dave McGinnis

     /  May 4, 2017

    Take a methane release, arrange for it to be ignited….

  7. Shawn Redmond

     /  May 4, 2017

    O/T again, sorry, but this is some more of the stacked deck I see everywhere I look anymore. Painting houses for a living I’ve seen an increase in mold and mildew in the past decade or so that suggests something has changed dramatically. 40 years ago even 20 you just scraped, primed and painted, not anymore. Now we wash every house exterior we paint, every one! Mold, mildew and basic air pollution are everywhere and cause premature failure of the new coat.
    Scientists suggest the world should brace itself for a new wave of biological invasions.
    We are all becoming increasingly familiar with the impacts of invasive species. Knotweed from Japan can destroy building foundations, zebra mussels from eastern Europe can clog-up drinking water pipes, and an Asian fungus is causing ash tree die-back in our forests. Now an international team of scientists has identified how our rapidly changing world will bring new types of invaders, often from very unexpected places.

    and the last two paragraphs sound toooo familiar

    An additional challenge is public perception of invasion science. Scientific evidence on invasive species impacts is under attack, with much of the opposition value-based rather than science-based. This form of science denialism involves a rejection of peer-reviewed evidence along with an attempt to re-frame, downplay or even deny the role of invasive alien species in global environmental change.

    “Denialism in science is not new, but its growth in the context of invasive species is especially worrying for people trying to conserve unique native biodiversity” says Prof. Tim Blackburn (University College London). “Manufacturing doubt about the negative impacts of invasive species can delay mitigating action to the point where it is too late.”

    • Spot on. In summer, on the drive from Raleigh to Lake Gaston, about 60 mi, every pond I see is covered by scum. Needless to say, this is not a normal or desirable situation.

    • Ive been painting for 25 years or so and I agree with 100 percent., As well MSParish , I am a avid hiker , as long as Ive painted or longer , The past two years the mold on shantrells is ten times that from my teenage years , been picking those since I was 14 ish, as well the last 3 years or so the Shallel has been going moldy on the underside of there leaves . Some pickers I know say this never happened during harvest before , at least not like it is now. Changes . Not for the better that’s for sure.

      • Mblanc

         /  May 4, 2017

        Sounds like increased moisture to my untutored ear, which has been widely reported (7% per deg of warming?). I know the effects are not uniform geographically, so depending on the local climate, it is easy to imagine a localised ‘tipping point’ for moisture loving creatures.

        DT would have been the person to weigh in here, on the increases in some types of air pollution. 😦

  8. coloradobob

     /  May 4, 2017

    Dust storm chokes Beijing and northern China

    A dust storm is choking a large swathe of northern China including the capital, Beijing, in yet another air quality crisis to affect the country.
    Official air quality readings have soared well above the recommended World Health Organization (WHO) limit.
    Authorities are advising residents to avoid outdoor activity and for children and elderly people to remain indoors.
    The dust is blowing in from neighbouring Mongolia and China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

  9. coloradobob

     /  May 4, 2017

    Record rainfall for much of the North Island, and record high temperatures for others

    April was a wet and warm month for the North Island, with more than twice the normal rainfall in the majority of locations, even as temperates rose markedly above average.

    The majority of the North Island saw temperatures climb by between 0.51 degrees Celsius and 1.2C, while at the same time some areas saw triple the normal rainfall, according to Niwa figures.

    The biggest culprits behind the rainfalls were the remnants of Cyclone Debbie in early April and ex-Cyclone Cook from April 12-13, both of which brought flooding to much of the North Island and parts of the South Island.

    Whangaparaoa, north of Auckland; Te Puke in Bay of Plenty; and Martinborough in Wairarapa experienced the wettest April on record. In the same period, Te Puke also had its warmest April since records began in 1973.

  10. Cate

     /  May 4, 2017

    NSIDC summary of April sea-ice.

    “Arctic sea ice extent for April 2017 tied with April 2016 for the lowest in the satellite record for the month. Warm weather conditions and lower-than-average sea ice extent prevailed over the Pacific side of the Arctic, while relatively cool conditions were the rule in northern Europe and eastern North America. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent remained lower than average….”

    Surveying the ice between Greenland and Ellesmere, they noted that “the ice was unusually broken up and reduced to rubble, with few large multi-year floes.” Pilots had to land on refrozen leads that were sometimes only 70 cm thick. “Pilots remarked that they had never seen the ice look like this.”

  11. Robert
    I am honored by the hat tip. As your commentators have made clear, you are doing breath-taking work. I help locally where I can, and much of that is due to this blog and its followers.

  12. coloradobob

     /  May 4, 2017
  13. wili

     /  May 4, 2017

    I may have posted this earlier here, but it seems particularly relevant on this thread:

    Wildfires in Borneo are ten times larger during droughts than in non-drought years; global warming will increase the frequency & severity of such droughts:

    Muh Taufik et al.

    Amplification of wildfire area burnt by hydrological drought in the humid tropics

    Nature Climate Change (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3280

    ” Borneo’s diverse ecosystems, which are typical humid tropical conditions, are deteriorating rapidly, as the area is experiencing recurrent large-scale wildfires, affecting atmospheric composition and influencing regional climate processes. Studies suggest that climate-driven drought regulates wildfires, but these overlook subsurface processes leading to hydrological drought, an important driver. Here, we show that models which include hydrological processes better predict area burnt than those solely based on climate data.

    We report that the Borneo landscape has experienced a substantial hydrological drying trend since the early twentieth century, leading to progressive tree mortality, more severe than in other tropical regions.

    This has caused massive wildfires in lowland Borneo during the past two decades, which we show are clustered in years with large areas of hydrological drought coinciding with strong El Niño events. Statistical modelling evidence shows amplifying wildfires and greater area burnt in response to El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) strength, when hydrology is considered. These results highlight the importance of considering hydrological drought for wildfire prediction, and we recommend that hydrology should be considered in future studies of the impact of projected ENSO strength, including effects on tropical ecosystems, and biodiversity conservation.”

    (thanks to aslr at neven’s site for text and link)

    • wili

       /  May 4, 2017

      See also, the associated linked article entitled: “Hydrological drought amplifies wildfires in Borneo’s humid tropics”.

      Extract: “The area of wildfires in Borneo during drought years turns out to be ten times larger than during non-drought years, an international research team reports in Nature Climate Change of this week. The fires recurrently affecting Borneo’s humid tropical ecosystems have negative influence on the biodiversity and lead to large CO2 emissions, affecting atmospheric composition and regional climate processes. Future droughts in wet tropical regions will likely increase in frequency and severity, and consequently the fire risk, the team says. “

  14. Tom

     /  May 4, 2017

    Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity.

    Scientists confirm, in overwhelming consensus, the fundamental facts that make anthropogenic global warming a clear and present threat to humanity and other species.

    There is no amount of ideological deception capable of altering basic physics, chemistry, and biology. It is ethically untenable for intelligent people to look the other way while elected officials deny reality, and our opportunity to avoid catastrophe slips away.

    We know that the continued acceleration of climate change will bring more droughts, rising seas, more extreme weather, longer forest fire seasons, and destructive storm surges. This in turn would lead to more water stress, crop failures, poverty, starvation, warfare, and ever worsening refugee crises.

    We know that the warming already achieved is expected to displace millions of people in low lying regions. Indeed, at our current rate of warming segments of the Middle East, Africa, and south Asia will likely become uninhabitable for future generations.

    This is not a problem for the distant future. People reading this right now risk dying of impacts related to climate change. Anyone who claims global warming is not catastrophic is ill informed – or playing a disingenuous game of privilege.

    The climate policies of the Trump administration, backed by many Republican leaders, are rooted in culpable ignorance and transparent corruption. And they place us all at risk on a scale that previous crimes against humanity never have. [more]

    [author’s conclusion]
    We are the bystanders who must choose to intervene or be defined by our failure.

    Thanks for posting this, Robert.

  1. Nuclear, climate news, for the week that has been « nuclear-news

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