More than 640 fires have burned more than 3.2 million acres in Alaska this year, putting the state on pace for a record wildfire year.
More than 640 fires have burned more than 3.2 million acres in Alaska this year, putting the state on pace for a record wildfire year. In 2004, Alaska’s worst fire season, about 6.6 million acres burned. More acres burned in the state last month than in June 2004.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), which makes predictions of the fire season for the federal government, expects the burning to continue. Wrote the agency:
“Alaska is in the heart of its fire season, and fire season could continue to be quite busy for another two months.”
The NIFC expects warmer temperatures and drier than normal conditions in the state.
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Nearly one-third of all firefighters on active fires are in Alaska, according to the NIFC. More than 85 percent of acres burning are in Alaska.
According to a report from Climate Central, more fire is part of a trend: The fire season in Alaska is getting longer, the area burned is increasing and the number of large wildfires in the Arctic part of the state is growing.
Climate Central projects that the area burned in Alaska wildfires will double by mid-century.
More fires in the Arctic region are concerning to scientists because they could melt permafrost and release carbon that could accelerate global warming, said Todd Sanford, lead author of the study.
That’s because studies show wildfire can thaw permafrost beneath vegetation and soil and release sealed carbon, which could accelerate climate change though the effect is not certain.
Scientists are concerned that could create a feedback loop: More carbon in the atmosphere leading to warming temperatures, which thaws permafrost and leads to more carbon in the atmosphere.