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Earth on Fire

Pam Sornson

Posted on August 24, 2019 13:01

2 users

This year's freakish wildfires are threatening more than just trees; they're also threatening the planet's primary production source of oxygen.

The current wildfires in the Amazon are evidence of more than just the abnormality of this year's freakishly high temperatures.

Drought caused by excess CO2 and GHG's in the atmosphere is evaporating the natural levels of humidity that normally keep temperatures down and vegetation too moist to burn. South America is just one locale that is revealing the consequences of unmanaged GHG emissions.

The Arctic
Every country with a presence above the Arctic Circle experienced a universal first this year: their polar region caught on fire. On the North American continent, the U.S., Canada, and Greenland suffered raging fires in areas with no recorded history of previous burns. In Alaska, an almost two and a half million acres burned this summer, while Anchorage hit its highest recorded temperature ever: 90° Fahrenheit.

Siberia
Meanwhile, the Euro-Asian continents are experiencing their own kind of hell: many western European countries are experiencing their hottest summers ever, with temperatures soaring well over 105°F. In France, where the temperature rose above 108°F, cyclists in the Tour de France race wore vests made of ice to prevent heatstroke, a potentially lethal condition. Germany, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands all recorded record-high temperatures, and dozens have died because of heat-related causes.

Out-of-control wildfires are also consuming immense swaths of Siberia, another region not known for having excessive wildfire concerns. This summer, however, thousands of square miles of Siberia's Boreal forest are burning, generating smoke plumes that are blacking out cities hundreds of miles away. Russians are complaining not just about the smoke, but also about the caustic ash that's falling on their houses and aggravating their lungs. Part of the challenge is Russia's four-year-old cost-cutting policy of letting wildfires burn until it becomes economically necessary to douse them. That's resulted in the accumulation of years of unburned forest-floor detritus, which is now just more fodder for the flames.

The Amazon
This week's apocalypse comes to us from South America. There have been more than 72,000 fires reported in the Amazon Jungle this year, which is an 80% rise over the number of fires reported in 2018. Those fires are caused by years of drought brought on by rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, coupled with uncontrolled deforestation efforts as the Brazilian government tacitly permits razing the Amazon forest to develop as farming and grazing land.

All three heavily forested regions are carbon sinks, absorbing huge amounts of airborne CO2, and also the planet's primary sources of oxygen, which trees emit through photosynthesis. Burning them down not only removes the Earth's best oxygen source, but it also produces more CO2 and shifts their capacity from being carbon sponges to being carbon emitters. If that cycle completes and they are lost to us as the oxygen-producing engines they've always been, then the consequences to all oxygen-dependent species on the planet - including humans - will be dire.

Pam Sornson

Posted on August 24, 2019 13:01

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Source: BBC

Siberia's wildfires have already engulfed an area the size of Belgium, and they are still burning.

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