Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Wildfires in Greenland!!!

Is there anyone willing to say this is "business-as-usual in the ....Arctic" (Radio New Zealand re Larsen C)

Wildfires are burning in Greenland
Historically, wildfires in Greenland occur infrequently.

Above: Satellite photo of one of the wildfires burning in Greenland August 3, 2017. Sentinel-2A data from the European Union Earth Observation Programme.
(Originally published at 11:25 a.m. MDT August 7, 2017)

7 August, 2017

Three-quarters of Greenland is covered by the only permanent ice sheet outside Antarctica, and permafrost is found on most of the rest of the island. These are reasons why it is very unusual, and possibly unprecedented, that two wildfires are burning on the giant island.

The fires are near Sisimiut in Western Greenland north of the Arctic Circle at 66.9 and 67.8 degrees north latitude, which compares to the “Far North” area of Alaska near the Brooks Range.

wildfires burning in GreenlandSatellite photo showing smoke from the two wildfires burning in Greenland, August 3, 2017. The red dots represent heat. NASA.

According to Danish and Greenlandic news reports, they were first spotted from an airplane piloted by Per Mikkelsen who took photos of the fires. The weather forecast for the area indicates no rain in the next 10 days.

These fires appear to be peatland fires, as there are low grass, some shrub, and lots of rocks on the western edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet”, Jessica L. McCarty, an Assistant Professor of Geography at Miami University told us Monday. She continued, “They are likely occurring in areas of degraded permafrost, which are predicted to have high thaw rates between now and 2050 with some evidence of current melt near Sisimiut. Fires in the High Northern Latitudes release significant CO2, CH4, N20, and black carbon. A fire this close to the Greenland Ice Shelf is likely to deposit additional black carbon on the ice, further speeding up the melt. More on black carbon deposition in Greenland from wildland fires can be found here.”

The European Union Earth Observation Programme has stated that wildfires in Greenland are rare but have no data on previous wildland fire activity in this region”, Ms. McCarty said.

"wildfires Greenland map
Vicinity map of the wildfires in Greenland

(UPDATE at 3:03 p.m. MDT August 7, 2017)
After we published this article, NASA posted the satellite photo below that was acquired August 3, 2017 by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8.

fire greenlandSatellite photo of the fire in Greenland acquired by NASA August 3, 2017 using the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8.


Unusual Wildfire Burns in Greenland

Unusual Wildfire Burns in Greenland

In an unusual event, satellites have detected a sizable wildfire burning in Greenland. The fire is in western Greenland, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northeast of Sisimiut. Most of Greenland is covered by ice, but dwarf willows, shrubs, grasses, mosses, and other vegetation do live in some coastal areas.
Satellites first detected evidence of the fire on July 31, 2017. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer(MODIS) and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Suomi NPP collected daily images of smoke streaming from the fire over the next week. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this more detailed image of the fire on August 3, 2017.

While it is not unprecedented for satellites to observe fire activity in Greenland, a preliminary analysis shared by Stef Lhermitte of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands suggests that MODIS has detected far more fire activity in Greenland in 2017 than it did during any other year since the sensor began collecting data in 2002. The fire appears to be burning through peat, noted Miami University scientist Jessica McCarty
It is not clear what triggered the fire. Sisimiut, the second largest town in Greenland, has a population of 5,500 people.


NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Adam Voiland.

There’s a Wildfire Burning in West Greenland Right Now

By Brian Kahn
It’s not just the American West and British Columbia burning up. A fire has sparked in western Greenland, an odd occurrence for an island known more for ice than fire.

A series of blazes is burning roughly in the vicinity of Kangerlussuaq, a small town that serves as a basecamp for researchers in the summer to access Greenland’s ice sheet and western glaciers. The largest fire has burned roughly 3,000 acres and sent smoke spiraling a mile into the sky, prompting hunting and hiking closures in the area, according to local news reports.

The Sentinel-2 satellite captured a wildfire burning in western Greenland.Click image to enlarge. Credit: Pierre Markuse/flickr

There’s no denying that it’s weird to be talking about wildfires in Greenland because ice covers the majority of the island. Forests are basically nonexistent and this fire appears to be burning through grasses, willows and other low-slung vegetation on the tundra that makes up the majority of the land not covered by ice.

Data for Greenland fires is hard to come by, but there is some context for fires in other parts of the northern tier of the world. The boreal forest sprawls across Canada, Russia, Alaska and northern Europe, and provides a longer-term record for researchers to dig into. That record shows that the boreal forest is burning at a rate unprecedented in the past 10,000 years.

Stef Lhermitte, a remote sensing expert at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said there is evidence of fires burning in Greenland over the past 17 years of MODIS satellite records kept by NASA. But because of how NASA’s algorithms interpret the satellite data, there’s low confidence that every fire on the map actually occurred.

Jason Box, an ice sheet researcher with the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland, said he observed a lightning-sparked fire in the late 1990s, but that otherwise, fires are rare. Looking at the MODIS record, he said one of the only other high confidence fires was actually a trash burn in 2013, though other satellites show evidence of others fires

Box also noted that temperatures in the area rose in late July just before the fire was first observed, spiking to above 53°F (12°C) on July 27. While not exactly balmy, the temperature rise may have helped the blazes to spread.
According to La Croix, a French newspaper, there’s no precedent for a fire this size in the European Union’s forest fire system. Looking beyond the satellite record for context specific to Greenland is all but impossible as there are basically no records to refer to.

There does not appear to be a reliable long-term record of observed wildfires in Greenland,” researchers with the Danish Meteorological Institute’s Greenland monitoring program tweeted.

Ultimately, it’s not the burning of Greenland’s tundra that’s the biggest climate change concern. It’s the island’s massive store of ice that if melted, would be enough to raise sea levels 20 feet.

The ice has been melting at a quickening pace since 2000, partly due to wildfires in other parts of the world. The uptick in boreal forest fires has kicked up more ash in the atmosphere where prevailing winds have steered it toward the ice sheet.

The dark ash traps more energy from the sun, which has warmed the ice sheet and caused more widespread melting. Soot from massive wildfires in Siberia caused 95 percent of the Greenland ice sheet surface to melt in 2012, a phenomenon that could become a yearly occurrence by 2100 as the planet warms and northern forest fires become more common.

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