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News: Due to rise in global temperature, fires are spreading farther north and into the Arctic, leading to a rise in “zombie fires”.
What are Zombie Fires?
• Zombie fires are fires that smolder underground for months, even after the surface flames have been extinguished, and then re-emerge when the conditions are favorable. They are also known as overwintering fires or holdover fires.
Why are they occurring in the Arctic region?
• Zombie fires occur mainly in the Arctic Circle, where the soil is rich in organic matter such as peat and methane, which can act as fuel for the fires. They are usually caused by lightning strikes or human activities, and can survive under the snow cover during the winter. When the snow melts and the soil dries out in the spring, the zombie fires can reignite and spread rapidly.
• Also as the Arctic region is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. This rise in temperature brings with it a number of changes to the environment that make the forest and tundra more susceptible to burning for longer.
What are the concerns?
• Zombie fires are a serious threat to the environment and the climate, as they release large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
• They also destroy the forests and vegetation that act as carbon sinks, and potentially thaw the permafrost, which contains more carbon.
• Zombie fires can also pose a risk to human health and safety, as they create smoke and haze that affect air quality and visibility.
• According to a recent study published in Nature, zombie fires may account for up to 38% of the total burned area in some years in the Arctic Circle. The study also developed a computer algorithm that can detect zombie fires from satellite data, which could help fire managers to prevent or control them.