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Dr. Mark Parrington is a senior scientist at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, where he is part of the team that operates the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service. Mark has many years of experience working with Earth Observation, measurements on-site and numerical models to study global forest fires and atmospheric composition.
To monitor wildfires around the world, Copernicus experts use GFAS (Global Fire Assimilation System), which is based on satellite observations from Fire Radiative Power (FRP). Mark based his presentation through this compelling lens.
Mark highlights that smoke emissions and transport are monitored in near real time to detect individual wildfires. Additionally, 18 years of CAMS data help provide context for today's wildfires. He emphasizes that the interaction of the Article Circle fires with environmental conditions, available fuel, and changing weather requires more detailed investigation.
Parrington and his team have observed CO2 emissions in the Arctic Circle for years, and this summer of 2020 CO2 emissions have already exceeded those of previous years. The scale and intensity of wildfire activity in the Siberian Arctic in 2019 and 2020 has far exceeded the activity of previous years within the 18 years of available monitoring data.
These graphs show us an overview of the daily fire activity in the Arctic Circle during this summer of 2020, but also during the last summer of 2019. Radiative fire power (FRP) for 2020 (red bars) and 2019 (bars gold) >> 2003- 2018 mean (gray bars) for the Arctic Circle (latitudes> 66º N) from mid-June to mid-August.
In 2019, daily fire activity in the Arctic Circle was well above that 2003-2018 average. What is concerning, and what Mark and his team are currently seeing is a very similar development from mid to late June 2020. However, in July things have changed quite radically: the total daily radiative power of the fire measures much more intensely than in previous years. . Thus, we are witnessing growth in Arctic wildfire activity from 2020 comparable to 2019 through June which then accelerated in July.
Mark also notes that from June to August the estimated total CO2 emissions for 2020 in the Arctic Circle have been the highest in the 18-year GFAS dataset since the end of July. Also, Mark shared a graphic animation to understand how unusual the Artic fires are in July.
The working animation shows 18 years of July wildfires in high northern latitudes. The fires in the Arctic Zone are actually not that unusual, one or two could be expected, but not the fires that we are currently having as there are so many and with such intensity.
18 years of July #wildfires at boreal and high northern latitudes with @CopernicusECMWF Atmosphere Monitoring Service @ECMWF GFAS data https://t.co/eb31VObkdM cc @CopernicusEU @KCLwildfire_EO @WMO https://t.co/D78hx9SsAY pic.twitter.com/JckzLqs2Lz
- Mark Parrington (@m_parrington) August 3
Why do we see these fires in the Arctic now, and why didn't we see them before?
Mark explains that the vegetation is very dry, that there are some anomalies in the soil moisture. The map below illustrates that there are active fire observations throughout the summer corresponding to areas of negative (drier) soil moisture anomalies (relative to 1981-2010) from the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
And this is what is currently happening this summer of 2020: Many observations of active fires (red dots) are found in known peatlands (areas shaded in green) in Siberia and other parts of the Arctic Circle.
In addition, there is a potential source of uncertainty when estimating emissions, for example: undetected smoldering fires; unknown emission factors.
Mark reminds us that in the Arctic and boreal biomes, peat soils are widespread and a large proportion of fires in the mapped areas correspond to these peat areas. Therefore, about half of the fires occur on peat soils, with a large increase in total peat fires in 2019 and 2020. More information here.
We are honored to learn so much relevant information from Mark in the #PCFWebinar. If you want to know more about Mark Parrington's research, you can always refer to Copernicus data. Remember that it is free and is open to everyone.
http://atmosphere.copernicus.eu | @CopernicusECMWF | @CopernicusEU | @CopernicusEMS