Commission technical support to Greece to tackle structural reasons for the forest fire crisis
The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service closely monitored a summer of extreme forest fires in the northern hemisphere, including intense hot spots around the Mediterranean basin and across North America and Siberia. The intense fires led to new records in the CAMS dataset, with July and August respectively recording their highest global carbon emissions.
Scientists from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) closely followed a summer of severe forest fires that affected many different countries in the northern hemisphere and caused record carbon emissions in July and August. CAMS, which is implemented by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission with EU funding, reports that not only large parts of the northern hemisphere have been affected during this year’s boreal fire season, but the number of fires, their persistence and intensity were remarkable.
As the boreal fire season draws to a close, scientists at CAMS reveal that:
- Dry conditions and heat waves in the Mediterranean have contributed to a wildfire hotspot with numerous intense and rapid fires across the region, which have created large amounts of smoke pollution.
- July was a record month worldwide in the GFAS dataset with 1,258.8 megatons of CO2 published. More than half of the carbon dioxide has been attributed to fires in North America and Siberia.
- According to GFAS data, August was also a record month for fires, releasing around 1,384.6 megatonnes of CO2 globally in the atmosphere.
- Arctic forest fires released 66 megatonnes of CO2 between June and August 2021.
- Estimated CO2 emissions from forest fires in Russia as a whole from June to August amounted to 970 megatonnes, with the Republic of Sakha and Chukotka accounting for 806 megatons.
CAMS scientists use near real-time, active satellite observations of fires to estimate emissions and predict the impact of resulting air pollution. These observations provide a measure of the heat output of fires known as the radiative power of the fire (FRP), which is related to the emission. CAMS estimates daily global fire emissions with its Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) using FRP observations from NASA’s MODIS satellite instruments. Estimated emissions of different air pollutants are used as a surface boundary condition in the CAMS forecasting system, based on the ECMWF weather forecast system, which models the transport and chemistry of air pollutants, to predict how the quality of the air is Global air will be affected for up to five days to come.
The boreal fire season generally lasts from May to October, with a peak of activity between July and August. In this summer of forest fires, the most affected regions were:
Many nations in the eastern and central Mediterranean was affected by intense forest fires in July and August with smoke plumes clearly visible on satellite images and CAMS analyzes and forecasts crossing the eastern Mediterranean basin. While south-eastern Europe has experienced prolonged heat waves, data from CAMS showed that daily fire intensity for Turkey reached the highest levels in the GFAS dataset dating back to 2003. Following the fires in Turkey, other countries in the region have been affected by devastating forest fires, including Greece. , Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, Algeria and Tunisia.
Fires also hit the Iberian Peninsula in August, affecting large areas of Spain and Portugal, particularly a large area near Navalacruz in the province of Avila, just west of Madrid. Large forest fires have also been recorded east of Algiers in northern Algeria, with CAMS GFAS forecasts showing high surface concentrations of fine particulate matter PM2.5.
While the Republic of Sakha in northeast Siberia typically experiences some degree of wildfire activity every summer, 2021 has been unusual, not only in its size, but also in the persistence of fires. high intensity since early June. A new emissions record was set on 3rd August for the region and emissions were also more than double the previous total from June to August. In addition, the daily intensity of the fires has reached above average levels since June and did not begin to decline until early September. Other affected areas in Siberia were Chukotka Autonomous Oblast (including parts of the Arctic Circle) and Irkutsk Oblast. The increase in activity observed by CAMS scientists corresponds to an increase in temperatures and a decrease in soil moisture in the region.
Large-scale forest fires burned in western parts of North America in July and August, affecting several Canadian provinces as well as the Pacific Northwest and California. The so-called Dixie Fire that raged through Northern California is now one of the largest on record in the history of the state. Pollution resulting from the persistent and intense activity of the fires has affected the air quality of thousands of people in the region. The CAMS global forecast also showed a mixture of smoke from long-lasting forest fires in Siberia and North America crossing the Atlantic. A clear plume of smoke was observed crossing the North Atlantic and reaching the western British Isles in late August before passing through the rest of Europe. This happened as Saharan dust moved in the opposite direction across the Atlantic, including a section over southern areas of the Mediterranean, resulting in reduced air quality.
Mark Parrington, Senior Scientist and Forest Fire Expert in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service at ECMWF, said: “Throughout the summer we have been monitoring forest fire activity in the northern hemisphere. What stood out as unusual was the number of fires, the size of the areas in which they burned, their intensity and also their persistence. For example, forest fires in the Republic of Sakha in northeast Siberia have been burning since June and only started to recede in late August, although we observed persistent fires in early September. It’s a similar story in North America, parts of Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and California, which have experienced major wildfires since late June and early July and are still ongoing. “
“There is concern that drier and warmer regional conditions – brought about by global warming – are increasing the flammability and risk of vegetation fires. This led to very intense and rapidly developing fires. While local weather conditions play a role in the actual behavior of fires, climate change helps provide the ideal environments for forest fires. Other fires around the world are also expected in the coming weeks, as the fire season in Amazonia and South America continues to develop, ”he added.
More information on the forest fires in the northern hemisphere during the summer of 2021.
The CAMS Global Fire Monitoring page can be accessed here.
To learn more about fire monitoring, see the CAMS Wildfire Q&A.
Copernicus is a component of the European Union’s space program, funded by the EU, and is its flagship Earth observation program, which operates through six thematic services: Atmosphere, Marine, Earth, Climate Change, Security and Emergency. It provides operational data and freely accessible services providing users with reliable and up-to-date information relating to our planet and its environment. The program is coordinated and managed by the European Commission and implemented in partnership with Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Forecast Center Medium-Term Meteorological (ECMWF), EU agencies and Mercator Ocean, among others.
The ECMWF operates two services of the EU’s Copernicus Earth Observation Program: the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). They also contribute to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS), which is implemented by the EU’s Joint Research Council (JRC). The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an independent intergovernmental organization supported by 34 states. It is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating digital weather forecasts to its member states. These data are fully available for the national meteorological services of the Member States. The ECMWF supercomputer facility (and associated data archive) is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and member states can use 25% of its capacity for their own purposes.
The ECMWF is expanding its presence across its member states for certain activities. In addition to a headquarters in the UK and a data center in Italy, new offices focused on activities carried out in partnership with the EU, such as Copernicus, will be located in Bonn, Germany, from the summer 2021.
The website of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service website.
More information on Copernicus.
The ECMWF website.