exceptional images show how the smoke trails of wildfires over
Siberia can be seen from outer space. The pictures were made by the
EPIC camera on NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft some
975,074 miles - or 1,569,229 kilometres from Earth on 21 July this
between the Earth and the Sun, the evidence on such images suggest
that the smoke cover is extensive, yet Greenpeace accuses the Russian
authorities of massively under reporting the scale of the annual
satellite images confirm the extent of the fires, for example the
Suomi NPP spacecraft, orbiting 512 miles (824 km) above Earth.
claim that such images show fires are 10 times more widespread than
acknowledged by the Russian government.
from wildfires in Siberia seen from million miles away.
Pictures: EPIC camera, NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory
as we outline below, there are worrying reports of the tundra burning
in the Arctic Yamal Peninsula, as well as other damaging fires, for
example a 3,000 hectare blaze at the Lena Pillars Nature Park -
a UNESCO World Heritage Site - which was finally extinguished in
recent days in Yakutia, also known as Sakha Republic.
say the fires pose a direct threat to the role of Siberian pristine
Boreal forests in absorbing climate-warming emissions.
as the weather turns drier and warmer, the forests become more prone
to wildfires. Annually the Russian forests absorb a net 500 million
tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, equivalent to the emissions put
off over a year by 534 coal-burning power plants.
'forest fire danger and carbon emissions will double or triple by the
end of the century', expert Anatoly Shvidenko, who served on
the UN's Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), told AFP.
in Yamal Peninsula which is mostly above the Polar circle. Picture:
Russian Ministry of Natural Resources
thinning of the forests is most acute in northern Siberia where fires
can ravage plant life and shallow roots, making it impossible for
trees to regrow for centuries - a process known as 'green
seven million hectares have burned, that's more than average,' said
Grigory Kuksin, in charge of the wildfire prevention programme
at Greenpeace Russia.
it's the same scenario, where a small fire is ignored and then goes
out of control.'
is exactly the case in the recent fire at the Lena Pillars
Nature Park, said local experts. There were claims that the late
discovery of hot spots in the area, a significant tourist location,
allowed the wildfires to take hold, destroying pristine forest.
133 people were involved in fighting this outbreak of wildfire,
including paratroopers, local volunteer firefighters, and employees
of chemical firefighting stations.
fires here started on 28 June and were finally put out on 21 July.
in Yamal. Pictures: Vesti Yamal
has witnessed 109 wildfires covering 8,000 hectares so far this
year. As Kuksin claimed, drier and hotter summers have extended
the fire season in Russia, but 99 percent of wildfires are still
caused by humans and the government should do more to prevent them.
they start reacting on time to small fires, everything will be okay,'
is also growing about other regions in Siberia and the Russian Far
East where large summer wildfires are an annual threat to nature and
Yamal, a state of emergency has been declared because of the large
wildfires, with some 8,000 hectares of forest and tundra destroyed.
Hot, dry weather in the Arctic means that during a 24 hour period
some 1,000 hectares of tundra has been destroyed.
Volovod, an emergencies official in Tazovsky district, said: 'There
is no threat to people and settlements (but the) situation is
complicated. It is related to the latest weather conditions.'
hot summer led to wildfires on Yamal peninsula. Picture: Vesti Yamal
high temperatures for this Arctic area - described as 'unbearable
heat' - has been going on for six weeks. Forest and tundra has
dried out and up to 10 new wildfires start every day. For example,
over the past 24 hours over 1,000 hectares of forest tundra was
affected by wildfires.
have also forced Yamal's nomadic population to choose alternative,
safe routes to pasture their deer: they stick to water as close as
possible. Over 600 people are involved in firefighting. Up to 16
aircraft are involved with local chiefs calling for federal
assistance with rescuers from three other regions arriving to counter
the burning tundra.
official Yulia Chebotaryova said: 'An Il-76 (aircraft) will be
involved to extinguish wildfires in Nadymsky district. It can carry
up to 42 tons of water at a time.'
Yaroshenko, head of forest department of Greenpeace Russia, said: 'In
the next few days the situation in burning areas of Krasnoyarsk
region will get considerably worse. The area of active wildfires is
growing quickly and covers a larger territory.'
in Yamal. Picture: Vesti Yamal
from Krasnoyarsk fires has spread to a dozen other regions, it has
been reported. Locals complain about the strange smell of smoke,
possibly caused by a mixing with industrial emissions in some areas.
so-called 'Black Sky' regime - when industrial emissions are limited
- was declared this week.
Bruykhanov, senior researcher at the Forestry Institute in
Krasnoyarsk, said: 'Wildfires in Evenkiysky District will not get
extinguished until it starts raining extensively across the region.
This area of country is burning quite regularly just like, for
wildfires have been happening here every 10 to 30 years and in the
last decades every 5-10 years because of increased anthropological
pressure and global climate change. Of course it is possible to
deploy all the reserves of Avialesokhrana ('aviation forest
protection' service) and people from all the regional wildfire
centres but it won't change the situation. The Emergencies Miinistry
won't be able to help here but will only cause some extra work for
foresters who will have to rescue rescuers.'
warned: 'Having quote limited firefighting resources, it is necessary
to focus on fighting fire in areas where people live and, most
importantly, put more effort in prevention.'
skies over Krasnoyarsk; air pollution was so strong that one man had
to run a maraphon in a gas mask. Pictures: social networks
Kamchatka, Greenpeace's Alexey Yaroshenko warned: 'Large forest
tundra wildfires which haven't made it onto official reports continue
to be active close to the villages of Ayanka and Slautnoye.'
had been burning for more than one month, he said. 'Wildfires are
burning both in the tundra and forests.'
of the first half of 21 July local time, wildfires got as close as
four kilometres to the village of Ayanka, and eight kilometres to the
village of Slautnoye.
covers the villages because of wind. The total area of forest and
tundra fire in Kamchatka region is 172,000 hectares according to
Greenpeace and 121,000 hectares according to Нosleskhoz.'
* NOAA is
the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.