The Arctic Is Burning Like Never Before & That’s Bad News For Climate Change

Wildfires blazed along the Arctic Circle this summer, incinerating tundra, blanketing Siberian cities in smoke and capping the second extraordinary fire season in a row. By the time the fire season waned at the end of last month, the blazes had emitted a record 244 megatonnes of carbon dioxide — that’s 35% more than last year, which also set records. One culprit, scientists say, could be peatlands that are burning as the top of the world melts.

Peatlands are carbon-rich soils that accumulate as waterlogged plants slowly decay, sometimes over thousands of years. They are the most carbon-dense ecosystems on Earth; a typical northern peatland packs in roughly ten times as much carbon as a boreal forest. When peat burns, it releases its ancient carbon to the atmosphere, adding to the heat-trapping gases that cause climate change.Dramatic sea-ice melt caps tough Arctic summer

Nearly half the world’s peatland-stored carbon lies between 60 and 70 degrees north, along the Arctic Circle. The problem with this is that historically frozen carbon-rich soils are expected to thaw as the planet warms, making them even more vulnerable to wildfires and more likely to release large amounts of carbon. It’s a feedback loop: as peatlands release more carbon, global warming increases, which thaws more peat and causes more wildfires (see ‘Peatlands burning’). A study published last month1 shows that northern peatlands could eventually shift from being a net sink for carbon to a net source of carbon, further accelerating climate change.

The unprecedented Arctic wildfires of 2019 and 2020 show that transformational shifts are already under way, says Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Alarming is the right term.”

Zombie fires

The fire season in the Arctic kicked off unusually early this year: as early as May, there were fires blazing north of the tree line in Siberia, which normally wouldn’t happen until around July. One reason is that temperatures in winter and spring were warmer than usual, priming the landscape to burn. It’s also possible that peat fires had been smouldering beneath the ice and snow all winter and then emerged, zombie-like, in the spring as the snow melted. Scientists have shown that this kind of low-temperature, flameless combustion can burn in peat and other organic matter, such as coal, for months or even years.

Because of the early start, individual Arctic wildfires have been burning for longer than usual, and “they’re starting much farther north than they used to — in landscapes that we thought were fire-resistant rather than fire-prone”, says Jessica McCarty, a geographer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Sources: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts; Hugelius, G. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 117, 20438–20446 (2020)

Researchers are now assessing just how bad this Arctic fire season was. The Russian Wildfires Remote Monitoring System catalogued 18,591 separate fires in Russia’s two easternmost districts, with a total of nearly 14 million hectares burnt, says Evgeny Shvetsov, a fire specialist at the Sukachev Institute of Forest, which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Krasnoyarsk. Most of the burning happened in permafrost zones, where the ground is normally frozen year-round.

To estimate the record carbon dioxide emissions, scientists with the European Commission’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service used satellites to study the wildfires’ locations and intensity, and then calculated how much fuel each had probably burnt. Yet even that is likely to be an underestimate, says Mark Parrington, an atmospheric scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, who was involved in the analysis. Fires that burn in peatland can be too low-intensity for satellite sensors to capture.

The problem with peat

How much this year’s Arctic fires will affect global climate over the long term depends on what they burnt. That’s because peatlands, unlike boreal forest, do not regrow quickly after a fire, so the carbon released is permanently lost to the atmosphere.

Smith has calculated that about half of the Arctic wildfires in May and June were on peatlands — and that in many cases, the fires went on for days, suggesting that they were fuelled by thick layers of peat or other soil rich in organic matter.How peat could protect the planet

And the August study1 found that there are nearly four million square kilometres of peatlands in northern latitudes. More of that than previously thought is frozen and shallow — and therefore vulnerable to thawing and drying out, says Gustaf Hugelius, a permafrost scientist at Stockholm University who led the investigation. He and his colleagues also found that although peatlands have been helping to cool the climate for thousands of years, by storing carbon as they accumulate, they will probably become a net source of carbon being released into the atmosphere — which could happen by the end of the century.

Fire risk in Siberia is predicted to increase as the climate warms2, but by many measures, the shift has already arrived, says Amber Soja, an environmental scientist who studies Arctic fires at the US National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia. “What you would expect is already happening,” she says. “And in some cases faster than we would have expected.”

By: Alexandra Witze

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National Geographic

Here at the bottom of the world, a place all but free of human settlement, humanity is scrambling one of the ocean’s richest wildernesses. Fossil-fuel burning thousands of miles away is heating up the western peninsula faster than almost anywhere else. (Only the Arctic compares.) Hear National Geographic photographer Cristina Mittermeier share her love and fears for this beautiful place. ➡

Subscribe: http://bit.ly/NatGeoSubscribe#NationalGeographic#Antarctica#ClimateChange​ About National Geographic: National Geographic is the world’s premium destination for science, exploration, and adventure. Through their world-class scientists, photographers, journalists, and filmmakers, Nat Geo gets you closer to the stories that matter and past the edge of what’s possible.

Get More National Geographic: Official Site: http://bit.ly/NatGeoOfficialSite​ Facebook: http://bit.ly/FBNatGeo​ Twitter: http://bit.ly/NatGeoTwitter​ Instagram: http://bit.ly/NatGeoInsta​ Read the full article “The Big Meltdown” featured in National Geographic magazine’s November issue. https://on.natgeo.com/2J7VGvS​ See Antarctica Like Never Before | National Geographic https://youtu.be/Q_mCHs79B6c​ National Geographic https://www.youtube.com/natgeo

France’s Burger ‘King’ Asks For Help To Avoid Ecosystem Collapse

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Olivier Bertrand, one of France’s biggest restaurant owners has asked the government for assistance to ensure the sector doesn’t collapse. Bertrand owns over 850 eateries across France, ranging from Burger King to high-class brasseries such as Bofinger and Lipp in Paris.

In an interview with BFM TV, Bertrand said that if French restaurants had to reopen tomorrow it would lead to the collapse of the sector and the entire food ecosystem that supports it. He added that customers aren’t looking for a culinary experience which has a waitress in a safety visor and plexiglass between each table.

Bertrand has called on the government to introduce a package to help the industry, similar to the recent €18 package introduced to help the tourist sector. He has asked for four things:

Brasserie Lipp in Saint-Germain-des-Pres Square, Paris.

  1. That restaurants shouldn’t have to pay rent and property charges while they are closed.
  2. That as restaurants open, they should begin paying rent and charges on an incremental basis until they are operating at full capacity.
  3. That the government should keep its system of chomage partiel in place until the end of 2020 (where the government supplements up to 84% of normal incomes for people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic).
  4. That VAT should be reduced from 10% to 5.5%.

Bloomberg reported that the French restaurant industry currently counts more than 1 million people unemployed with the shutdown causing a loss of 13 billion euros ($14 billion) in sales. Bertrand said that the impact is being felt by big and small players and across the agriculture, animal raising and fishing sectors.

While France has emerged from lockdown, citizens cannot travel further than 100 km (62 miles) except for specific exceptions and restaurants, cafés and bars remain closed (although many are operating take away and delivery services). The government will take a decision on May 25 to see if they can reopen on 2 June.

I have lived in Provence ever since I exchanged my London city life for the charms of the south of France. I have a background in research, business and finance.

Source: https://www.forbes.com

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The World’s Largest Ocean Cleanup Has Officially Begun -Trevor Nace

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Ambitious dreams have now become a reality as the Ocean Cleanup deploys its $20 million system designed to clean up the 1.8 trillion pieces of trash floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Check out another Forbes piece on how Ocean Cleanup aims to reuse and recycle the ocean plastic. The floating boom system was deployed on Saturday from San Francisco Bay and will undergo several weeks of testing before being hauled into action. The system was designed by the nonprofit Ocean Cleanup, which was founded in 2013 by 18-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat. Their mission is to develop “advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic…..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/09/10/the-worlds-largest-ocean-cleanup-has-officially-begun/#c5a9f622738c

 

 

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How Much of the Ocean Is Actually Fished – Ed Yong

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How much of the world’s oceans are affected by fishing? In February, a team of scientists led by David Kroodsma from the Global Fishing Watch published a paper that put the figure at 55 percent—an area four times larger than that covered by land-based agriculture. The paper was widely covered, with several outlets leading with the eye-popping stat that “half the world’s oceans [are] now fished industrially.”Ricardo Amoroso from the University of Washington had also been trying to track global fishing activity and when he saw the headlines, he felt that the 55 percent figure was wildly off. He and his colleagues re-analyzed the data that the Global Fishing Watch had made freely available…….

Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/09/wait-so-how-much-of-the-ocean-is-fished-again/569782/

 

 

 

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More Pollution Shows Up In New River, & This Time It’s Milky White – David Fleshler

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A few weeks ago, residents reported murky, “chocolate-milk color” water and an oily sheen on the river. Environmental inspectors for Broward County identified the source as a Fort Lauderdale street-improvement project at Southeast 2nd Street and Southeast 4th Avenue, where stormwater was being used under pressure and a pump was found to be leaking diesel fuel.

Source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fort-lauderdale/fl-sb-new-river-pollution-20180829-story.html

 

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