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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏
These Arctic fires have been burning for over a month now. This thread takes a closer look at what might have caused these fires, what exactly is burning, & why we should be concerned... [πŸ›°οΈimages are from the same location in the Sakha Republic, RussiaπŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί, 65–70Β°N] [THREAD 1/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Taking a closer look at these fires, some are clearly preceded by an outbreak of tall cumulonimbus clouds (thunderclouds🌩️). We can tell these are tall cumulonimbus from their bright white tops [image 1], and cold cloud top temperatures (–100Β°C) [image 2] [2/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Each of these clouds will have been a short-lived thunderstorm providing many lightning strikes & gusty winds (ideal conditions to ignite a fire). Rain will be patchy with some areas wet and others dry. There is evidence of many lightning strikes across Siberia recently. [3/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Astonishingly, June temperatures were 6–10Β°C higher than the 1981–2010 average in this part of Siberia & land surface temperatures were an incredible 33–36Β°C before the fires ignited. This heat almost certainly drying fuel on the ground, increasing risk of ignition. [4/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
The key question is whether the fires are burning into peat soils. This map shows large expanses of peatlands in the location of many of these Siberian fires. Source: [5/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Evidence from the persistence of the satellite-detected hotspots as well as large burnt areas with persistent elevated surface temperatures indicates a long-lived smouldering phenomenon. The light & brownish colour of the smoke also suggests peat is burning. [6/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Why should we be worried? Peat shouldn't be available to burn. It only burns when it has been disturbed by some significant environmental change (e.g. drainage/drought). Siberian peatlands should be moist/frozen through summer, but this year's heatwave has dried them out. [7/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Peat fires in the Arctic are part of a number of positive feedback mechanisms in the climate system. They release old carbon in the form of CO2 & methane emissions, exacerbating global heating, and they leave behind a dark charred surface leading to localised heating. [8/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Some tentative conclusions: - at least some of these fires were ignited by lightning - ignition made far more likely by heatwave - fires are burning peat soils - this is the symptom of a sick Arctic [9/9]
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 18 Jul 19
Replying to @NASAEarth
Most images generated using Try it yourself here:
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 24 Jul 19
Replying to @m_parrington
[UPDATE] Confirmation that some of these [red dots = Jun/Jul 2019 fires] are burning on known peatlands [shaded green] in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, thanks to raw data from and PEATMAP. () More analysis to follow.
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 25 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Here's a follow-up thread on Arctic peat fires:
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Dr Thomas Smith πŸ”₯🌏 31 Jul 19
Replying to @DrTELS
Some more animations here from suspected peat fires:
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