Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, dominated the headlines last month when wildfires nearly destroyed the area. Now, scientists say that global warming could be responsible for the growing number of wildfires sprouting up around the Northern Hemisphere.
As global warming impacts this section of the world, temperatures are increasing at a rapid rate, according to scientists. Snow cover is prematurely melting, which is leaving forests largely dry. Additionally, warmer winters and the prominence of insects may be contributing to the hostile environment.
Researchers now theorize that a combination of these factors is causing a stark increase in wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere. Excessive heat might even be encouraging more lightning, and when it strikes trees, wildfires are likely to start.
In Russia, 70 million acres of boreal forest burned in 2012. This information indicates that the impact of global warming has been felt for quite some time, though it’s just making headlines, thanks to Alberta. Thomas W. Swetnam, an emeritus scientist at the University of Arizona, believes that warming temperatures and drought are largely responsible for these types of statistics.
Looking back on the Fort McMurray scare, Alberta had been experiencing higher-than-normal temperatures just weeks before the wildfire broke out. Some researchers claim that they had predicted these types of fire outbreaks years ago, back when emissions were beginning to be deemed harmful to the environment.
Over time, some scientists believe that more fires and soot could potentially cause ice sheets to melt even faster than before. In turn, this would lead to rising sea levels.
Worldwide, the length of the planet’s fire season has increased 19 percent between 1979 and 2013, according to research conducted by Mark Cochrane of South Dakota State University. While this hasn’t always been a problem, it’s worth noting that the fires become more uncontrollable in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
As of May 17, firefighters near Fort McMurray have been facing more extreme fire conditions as they look to contain the wildfire that initially made headlines weeks ago. Heavy smoke and limited visibility are making the situation more dangerous than it was before.
“Fort McMurray firefighters facing extreme fire conditions.” CBC News. Published May 17, 2016.
Borenstein, Seth. “It’s Not Just Alberta: Warming Fueled Fires are Increasing.” Associated Press. Published May 11, 2016.
Gillis, Justin. Fountain, Henry. “Global Warming Cited as Wildfires Increase in Fragile Boreal Forest.” New York Times. Published May 10, 2016.