Copernicus: Almost a quarter of global wildfire emissions from Canada

In the last year, violent forest fires raged around the globe again.

Copernicus: Almost a quarter of global wildfire emissions from Canada

In the last year, violent forest fires raged around the globe again. It was particularly bad in Canada, as an analysis by the EU's Copernicus Atmosphere Service (CAMS) shows. The fires there were responsible for almost a quarter (23 percent) of global carbon emissions from forest fires, according to Copernicus.

Accordingly, the fires, which started at the beginning of May and lasted until October, released 480 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Forest fires worldwide caused 2,100 megatons of CO2 emissions by the beginning of December.

Emissions are five times higher than the average over the past 20 years

This is a negative record for Canada and is almost five times the average of the past 20 years. The fires in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories and Quebec were exceptional not only for their CO2 emissions, but also for their intensity, duration and impact on local communities, according to the Copernicus statement .

The smoke development had significantly affected the air quality, the statement said. This was not only the case in the local area, but also in large parts of North America and beyond. Large plumes of smoke swept across the Atlantic and clouded the sky in parts of Europe. "The impact of the wildfires on air quality in North America, as well as the fact that hazy skies have occurred in Europe as a result of these fires, is a clear indication of their severity," said CAMS expert Mark Parrington, according to the release.

Forest fire season in USA and Russia relatively quiet

While Canada was hit particularly hard this year, the United States and Russia had relatively quiet wildfire seasons, with CO2 emissions estimated to be below the average for the past 20 years. However, the fires were violent on the island of Maui, which belongs to the US state of Hawaii, and also cost a number of lives and caused serious damage to the infrastructure. In addition to Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia were affected by significant forest fires in April and May.

In the Mediterranean region, there were fires particularly on the Greek island of Rhodes, in the Greek-Turkish border region and in other parts of Greece. Spain recorded the highest emissions for March in 21 years from fires on the border between the Aragon and Valencia regions and in Asturias. In August, the Canary Islands were also badly affected by forest fires.

Weather phenomenon increases forest fire risk in the southern hemisphere

According to Copernicus, the El Niño weather phenomenon in the southern hemisphere is creating conditions that increase the risk of forest fires. This had an impact on fires in Indonesia and Australia. In South America, there were significant fires in Chile and Argentina earlier this year.

The connections between climate change and forest fires are complex, the statement said. Although CO2 emissions from the fires were not one of the main drivers of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, higher temperatures and higher levels of these gases make unprecedented forest fires like this year in Canada more likely.

The atmospheric monitoring service CAMS (Copernicus Atmoshpere Monitoring Service) is one of several components of the European Union's Copernicus program. It provides, among other things, data obtained from satellite images on the areas of the atmosphere, oceans, land, climate change, security and energy.

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